Born in Independent Poland. Lahestaniha. The Children of Esfahan Back in Iran After 75 Years, photo: Abolqasem Jala
The Born in Independent Poland. Lahestaniha. The Children of Esfahan Back in Iran After 75 Years exhibition looks at the story of Polish refugees in Iran during World War II. The exhibition will present an extraordinary collection of negatives from the studio of Abolqasem Jala, which were discovered half a century after the end of the war.
The Born in Independent Poland. Lahestaniha. The Children of Esfahan Back in Iran After 75 Years exhibition, prepared by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, features never-before-seen photographs documenting the stay of Polish refugees in Iran during World War II. They are part of a huge collection of negatives discovered by Parisa Damandan in the photographic studio of Abolqasem Jala in Esfahan. The exhibition will be shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Esfahan (10th October – 23rd November 2017) and at the White Gallery of Sa’d Abaad Palace in Tehran (6th – 31st October 2017) to mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of 120,000 Polish refugees together in Iran, alongside General Władysław Anders.
Parisa Damandan , the exhibition’s curator, is a photographer and art historian. Researching the beginnings of photography in her native city of Esfahan, she accidentally came across a collection of unique documents: glass plate negatives. Damandan described this collection in the publication Children of Esfahan, published in 2010 by Iran’s Ministry of Culture. The collection’s photo portraits by Abolqasem Jala, a renowned Esfahani photographer, are an excellent example of early photographic art as well as an important testimony to the fate of Poles during the war. The collection includes group photos, portraits as well as pictures of the Polish community taken outside the photographic studio.
During World II people from the former eastern borderlands of the Republic of Poland fell victim to mass-scale deportations to labour camps in the Soviet Union. After a period of slave labour, on the basis of the Sikorski-Maisky Agreement, Polish citizens were allowed to form an army. After diplomatic relations were severed between the Polish government-in-exile and the Soviet Union, the army made its way via Kazakhstan to Iran. Deportations to Siberia had affected at least several hundred thousand Poles, while 116,000 Polish citizens managed to escape from the Soviet Union with General Władysław Anders’ army.
This group included some 3,000 orphans who ended up in Esfahan together with their caretakers and teachers. Their stay in Esfahan meant a complete change in their circumstances. After years spent in the steppes of Kazakhstan, the deserts of Turkmenistan and the taigas of Siberia, these Polish orphans found themselves in a fairy-tale oasis – Esfahan was like a paradise.
In Esfahan the Polish refugees found a place where they could forget their painful experiences and find strength and faith in a better future.
The exhibition was prepared with support from PGNiG S.A. – the sponsor of Polish cultural projects carried out by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Source: promotional materials, compiled by NR, 30 Aug 2017
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