The Village of Bridge Builders, Kranogruda 21 VIII 2015

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– Now close your eyes and not a word. Today we are going to be silent. A lot. Trust the silence and me, I will guide you through the ritual and all our workshop. Only the person holding the stick can speak. Listen to yourselves – says Jacek Bożek. A large group sits in a circle on the pier.

The participants are to make themselves comfortable. But that doesn’t help much because Jacek starts asking his questions. They are uncomfortable. They disturb one’s well-being. They come down to a self-examination of your conscience.

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The Village of Bridge Builders, Kranogruda 19 VIII 2015

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The night was somehow too short. It did not bring relief. A lot of emotion during morning conversations and even long after the breakfast. You need to let off the feelings of anger and grief, sadness, hopelessness and powerlessness, all that the film showed yesterday by Jessica Kaahwa brought about.

Uganda got closer to the utopia of Krasnogruda, the reason perhaps why it caused so much devastation. To be thinking here, in this green, sun and warmth, among children’s chatter and laughter, about that? About what’s up there? Abstract. But, one has to think about it.

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The Village of Bridge Builders, Kranogruda 18 VIII 2015

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Day and Sudden Evening

Children work in their workshops and studios, very serious about their tasks, preparing for Saturday’s finale in concentration. Some adults are still looking for their place in the Village, finding out which action offers best role for them. They still have some time for their search.

In the valley, behind the Aviaries, a little out of the way, imperceptibly and slowly, a bridge is being built.

It is constructed bit by bit, just like the stories in Krzysztof’s Tale Workshop. Before noon, under the tent on the shore of the lake, participants add new continuations to Miłosz’s “Hymn of the Pearl”, an interpretations of old Gnostic tales. The story of the life of a young boy meanders in unexpected directions, it eludes those with a script ready to carry them along the way. In the afternoon, at the same place, there is also a conversation about real bridges (more about them later will be told by a newcomer in the Village – Lars J. Hvinden).

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The Village of Bridge Builders, Kranogruda 17 VIII 2015

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Noon

A new order. The day begins with a meeting in the café, a schedule for the whole week needs to be done, the rhythm of the Village changes. Children have returned to the workrooms they usually work in during the year, adults – masters and guests have already had a chance to get a flavour of each workshop and studio and tried them for themselves. Now they have to settle on one of them.

Mariola invites to her Pantry. – We’re going to go with Biruta to the meadows, to her magical garden, and then we’ll try to make frankincense.

We’ll need it for Saturday.

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The Village of Bridge Builders, Kranogruda, 15 VIII 2015

Noon

Agata Szkopińska distributes building blocks of raw wood. The participants of Word Workshop sit at the big table, sheets of paper in front of them, and paint. All together, children, adults and teenagers. They are to find the sign which they associate with the bridge. Their own sign and hieroglyphic. They will paint it then on the blocks using red, black, green and brown paint. These are colours of nature and emotion.

Agata reminds them that the bridge has only two towers connected by a deck. Important is the thing below or above it. She asks: Can a tree  be a bridge between heaven and earth?

According to her, word is a set of characters that positioned appropriately become meaningful. Rearranged, they lose their meaning. You have to know their secrets to build something.

Expressed on the walls of blocks – assigned to a place, growing out of it, and at the same time, out of individual experiences of participants – they will be used to construct the bridge. Here, during workshops, concrete images are created: two figures holding hands. Or: there are more figures. Some match, some diverge from others.

– We’ll build a new common sign out of the blocks, a spatial installation – says Agata. – People of different cultures, religions and languages express the word bridge differently and understand it differently, too. Together, they will create a new symbol appropriate for this place and this group.

The process of creation is overseen by artist painters from Vilnius: Ricardas Zdanavicius and Loreta Zdanaviciene. They are very experienced in workshop work, another time they work with Polish youngsters.

The Word Workshop is one of ten workshops here. There are also: Tale Workshop, Deep Song Studio, Mysteries of Childhood Workshop, Sound and Picture Studio, Weaving Workshop, Krasnogruda Pantry, Nature Workshop, Music of the Place Studio and Mask Workshop.

Each builder of the Invisible Bridge will at least once join one of the workshops. It is a principle. The Great Finale is slated for August 22. The workshops will combine their experiences and create…

Well, what? We, participants, still don’t know.

Agata: Organizers don’t know either. It is difficult to predict the product of a joint creation.

Associations with the word bridge can vary considerably.

Connection.

Return.

Interpenetrating colours.

A passage from one end of the world to the other.

Oksana from Belarus says: – A bridge to a bomb. In my country, they bombed all bridges leading to Poland during the war and nobody ever rebuilt them.

I change the group, I join Bożena Szroeder and the Mysteries of Childhood Workshop. We meet on the lake, under the roof of a tent, we take off our shoes. The search for ourselves from the past will be conducted through body and word. We express closeness, a sense of security, fear and loss. We express with gestures various stages of humane life. From our birth to the grave. Literally, because Krystian lies down on the grass and Asia grieves for him. Exercise theme: parting.

Bożena: – The young never appreciate their youth, they wish to grow up fast. They have no idea how much this period shapes them. The bridge I wish to build has two towers: childhood and old age.

At the back of the manor house, sit the combined forces of as many as three workshops: of Weaving (Urszula Wasilewska), Mask (Wieslaw Szumiński) and Krasnogruda Pantry (Mariola Mitros). All of them make pots from clay, there must be plenty of them. They will be baked for a few days – until the climax day. Then they will give off the fragrance of herbs.

Wiesław Szumiński smoothes out the soft clay pots with his hand. We ask what the Invisible Bridge means for him. He says the answer is quite near: – It is sometimes easier to find a way to another person than to yourself.

 

Evening

Basement of the manor house, candlelight warms the interior of the brick vaults of the “Song of Porcelain” Café . Tales of the Invisible Bridge: Evening One.

Each of them – says Krzysztof Czyżewski who wishes to familiarize us with the idea – is to touch the mystery that already ancient Greeks were afraid of. Gephyrophobia – that’s what they called it to tame the fear of crossing the border between the known and unknown, of the moment when Native meets Alien. You can bar the entrance to him, or yield to him, or otherwise: hospitably open the door. The thing Czyżewski is talking about is his tale of the invisible bridge he has been trying to build for two years in the Village of Bridge Builders. During the first two editions of the programme, unlike the usual activities of Borderland, they did not leave the land they operated on or asked it to supply the tale, but tried instead to address to it a universal narrative: the myth of Medea and the Argonauts and its incarnations: ancient, modern, musical, pictorial and literary. The Argonauts embarked on a quest for the Golden Fleece, the greatest treasure of Colchis, the land situated at the foot of the Caucasus, the borderland of the known to them world. They invaded the land as Aliens, Medea was to help them with her hospitality. By marrying the leader of the party, Jason, she established the first agreement, bridge and symbol – observes Czyżewski – that since then has been explored, even infantilized, in our culture. – It is easy to play with a symbol itself, much more difficult to look at it more closely, to look deeper, to tear off the outer surface. And yet – he adds – we encounter the crossing of the limes of our civilization every day, because we live in a time in history when more frequently and more intensely than ever we encounter the Alien: a different culture, religion, view or social status. And hospitality? What does this holy to the Greeks law mean to us today? – asks Czyżewski. A sign of weakness, stupidity of those admitting – as may be inferred from the discussion about the “problem of immigrants in Europe” – or an ideal to which we should return? And then he reminded the audience that a bridge always means restoration, creation on a foundation, assembling of individual components, exploiting the potential of where we begin, the construction material of both banks we are to connect. Following the words of Derek Walcott, Caribbean poet, he quoted concluding his speech: “Break a vase, and the love that reassembles the fragments is stronger than that love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole.”

The Village of Bridge Builders, Kranogruda, 14 VIII 2015

Before lunch

Children screaming, you can hear them from the very start of the day. They got hungry. The youngest sleep in tents, they must have been cold in the night. After breakfast (round tables with red tablecloth on the grass), Bożena Szroeder will explain to them that what they experience in Krasnogruda is identical with what Czesław Miłosz experienced years ago. Because then, he was a little Czesio who used to come here for his summer holidays and discovered nature. Hot days and cold nights – signs of the changing seasons.
Children came over from the neighbourhood. From Żegary, Dusznica, Sejny, Giby and other villages. For the second year they participate with the adults in the Borderland’s “Tales of Coexistence” programme. The older participants have arrived, too, the rest will join them today or next day. Afternoons, they will sing and tell tales of their families’ past.
This neighbourly group counts 80 people. Together with the Borderland team, they are hosts here.
Guests keep on arriving since yesterday. They come from different parts of the world: Colombia, USA, Uganda, Ukraine, Norway, Belarus, Lithuania, Israel and Poland. They are proven partners of the Borderland Centre and Foundation. – They work in a similar way, combining artistic and educational work on local borderlands. Just like us, they are community-oriented and search for inspiration – explains Małgorzata Czyżewska.
Each in their own way. Belarussians get through to the village children with their Kryly Halopa theatre. The Ukrainians from Lviv try to give new identity to the neglected Pidzamcze quarter, formerly multicultural, just like our Kazimierz in Krakow. They enliven the common space, willing to take responsibility for it. Batia Gilad (President of the International Janusz Korczak Association) and her friends from the Israeli Galilee are interested in working with youth, in teaching in a multicultural environment. The guests of the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, the former partners at the reconstruction of Krasnogruda, are aware that peace and security are sometimes illusory. They learnt that after Anders Breivik’s murderous deed. They are architects, engineers and art historians. They study the impact of spatial organization on human relations. They revitalize the wooden monuments of heritage and focus on them their social activities.
There are also special guests, dialogue masters. They will share their special experience and reflection.
Yaarah Bar-On is the rector of an academic college of education in northern Israel – a symbolic place, a gateway to the multicultural Galilee.
Gwen Burnyeat from Colombia is involved in the investigation and resolution of conflicts among farmers forcibly evicted from their lands.
Christopher Merrill is an American translator, writer and traveller. He’s explored places torn apart by neighbourly conflicts.
Lars Jakub Hvinden-Haug, Norwegian architect.
Jessica Kaahwa, formerly resident of Rwanda, today an architect of the space of coexistence and dialogue on the borderlands of Congo and Sudan.
Locals and visitors – people of different identities and languages – create the Village of Bridge Builders.
– It has to be built – said Krzysztof Czyżewski – during the yesterday’s meeting – because we can perceive the decline of the ethos of dialogue at a special moment. Never before has man lived in proximity of such a diversity of cultures so strongly separate and so vehemently changing the world around him. Never before have the boundaries been so intensively crossed over in so many different parts of the world and physical distances been so easy to cover.
Therefore, in his opinion, today’s borderland is not just a space enclosed, say, by a state border posts, but a shared space of common life of different people. One with borders running across communities. Today, it is no longer a periphery located far away from the centre of the region, known for its continuing, since time immemorial, tribal conflicts, or for the wealth of preserved, in spite of advances of modernity, various, sometimes exotic, cultural traditions.
Today’s borderland lies at the centre of modern civilization – In such a situation, it is necessary to create workshops of bridge building in new and ever more difficult conditions – argues Krzysztof.
Both young and old, those local and those from different parts of the world will build the Invisible Bridge. It will be an installation – an artistic symbol. And not only that, also children will contribute modern meanings and build it in the way that can be utilized for workshops, exhibition and performances in the future. Each initiative is to create a chance for crossing over and reaching the other side.

Afternoon

Today is the anniversary of the death of Czesław Miłosz. He passed away 11 years ago.
Małgorzata Czyżewska remembers that day: – We visited with the young people the devastated Krasnogruda. We knew little about the former manor. There were just a few photos from Andrzej and Czesław Miłosz’s family album, a few memories. We tried to make contact with the past, but how? Perhaps, we should ask local residents, perhaps, they might remember something? A fragile thread of hope, over 70 years had passed. The children asked their grandparents and great-grandparents about the manor. And quite unexpectedly, a sudden avalanche of memories was triggered. The elderly ladies: Marysia, Stasia and Anna and gentlemen Władysław and Witek recalled their childhood memories. We learned from them a lot about the last owners and about the manor itself, we could even make a map of the manor. And then, when the bond between Krasnogruda and its neighbours was established we heard about Miłosz’s death.
Since then, every year, on August 14, Krasnogruda remembers. The meeting “Remembering Miłosz” always opens with a Mass in the Żegary church said in Polish and Lithuanian, for the intention of good neighbourhood. Locals and guests participate. Then, a joint visit to the manor – time for memories, songs and conversation.
Małgorzata: – Each anniversary looks a little bit different. But, always important is the cornerstone laid 11 years ago. The manor is to be a place co-founded by those who live here and those who visit it. We once staged “The Issa Valley” and now we are building The Invisible Bridge. Different facets of the same tradition.
After the service, the „Kaimynai” (lit. “Neighbours”) choir take their position on the porch. They are local Lithuanians and Poles who participate in Borderland’s Deep Song Studio. They work under the direction of Wojciech Szroeder.

Evening

An evening in memory of Czesław Miłosz. This year, Krzysztof Czyżewski talks about Czesław Miłosz with Christopher Merrill and Agnieszka Kosińska, Miłosz’s personal assistant, who accompanied the poet during the last eight years of his life, now the curator of the poet’s apartment and archives.

 

 

Literature

The Book of the Bridge, PDF

The Book of the Bridge is a product of the “Neimar – Bridge Builder” workshops organized in Mostar and Sejny. The workshop activities with young people living in the multicultural communities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Britain and Poland, was a practical part of the “Bosnian Triptych”, a project devoted to the problem of the crisis of multicultural society in Europe. Autorzy / Autri / Authors: Krzysztof Czyżewski, Ranka Mutevelić, Tanja Miletić Oručević, Brendan Jackson, Wiesław Szumiński.

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