Do You Miss Your Country? is the first book by Polish artist Monika Szydłowska, author of popular illustrations depicting life of Poles in exile. The publication's title refers to ‘the main question asked by Poles living abroad,’ as the author explains.
The 176-page book published by the Centrala publishing house contains a collection of illustrations telling stories of the multicultural dialogue and differences between Poles and Brits. It references, for instance, online conversations with family members back home, packages sent from Poland, and regular flights to the homeland, as well as jokes about the respective customs of both nationalities.
Szydłowska admits that her illustrations are autobiographical:
Someone even called it a diary. […] Everything I draw is a real life situation experienced by me, or sometimes by my twin sister in London. People also send me their stories, but I rarely use them: I need to see these people, their outfits, in order to draw it all properly.
– she explains.
The question opening the book – do you miss your country? – is one of the main questions asked by emigrants. Initially, I was certain when I answered that I didn't, but the longer I've been here, the more I change my mind and miss some things: my mum, pierogi…
– the artist elaborates.
Szydłowska has lived in Edinburgh for almost three years and she admits that she is beginning to get used to cultural differences between the two countries.
At first, I drew new illustrations almost every day, something always struck or surprised me. Nowadays, I don't do it as often, but interesting things still happen to me.
She started painting these situations when she was looking for a job and needed an additional occupation that could act as a distraction. As she says, it became ‘a ritual, a habit, which dictated the rhythm of her life abroad.’
The Facebook page Na emigracji, where Szydłowska publishes her drawings, is followed by over 12,000 people.
I often receive emails that my drawings reflect somebody's life, that these stories also happen to other people. Since my characters lack faces, it is easier for people to identify with these drawings.
Once, someone showed me a photograph of a football stadium and said: ‘this place is able to host twelve thousand people.’ That was when I actually realised how many people view it!
– she says, laughingly.
On an everyday basis, Szydłowska, who is a graduate of the University of Arts in Poznań, works with the handicapped.
There are a lot of efforts made in Scotland to assure their social integration and wellbeing. I am very happy that I can take part in this and it brings me a lot of satisfaction.
– she admits.
Source: PAP, ed. MŚ, transl. AM, May 2016Culture.pl