Polish Heritage Days 2020

Forgotten Force is an oral history project by the Piłsudski Institute of London giving first-hand evidence of the past by audio and video recording stories of Polish women survivors of the Second World War who have been residing in the UK for the past seventy years. As a part of the project we gathered stories of six women who told us about their experience of war, lives as refugees and new home in England. To help bring these stories to life we invited a London based artist and art conservator, Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga, to interpret the assembled tales and translate them to image.

The subject is particularly important now that we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the VE-Day at a time when our way of life, and freedom fought for by past generations is under threat due to a global pandemic. The people we should all remember about are particularly vulnerable and we are at risk of losing living heritage.

Women’s contribution to society, often overlooked, was paradoxically made more visible by wars usually perceived as a masculine domain. Once they left the confinements of domesticity, women became increasingly involved in struggle for freedom on the fronts of all wars, but they also kept protecting their families on home fronts. Blurring the lines of gender divisions, the unsung heroes served wherever required from hospitals and driving ambulances to serving in kitchens and shedding blood in trenches.

At the root of our project was a will to celebrate the lives of our heroines and memory of thousands of those who were long forgotten. Due to the living history aspect the project was, and is, of utmost urgency. We believe that the stories we tell are universal and will help to piece together missing parts of wartime narrative and secure it for the future. The aim of this multimedia project was first and foremost to give voice to those who feel underrepresented in history, but also to create a resource to support research into women, refugees and war.

To engage the public with the project we organised a series of events as well as put together a Forgotten Force. A Journey of Memory catalogue which is available through the institute. Whereas the recorded material has been archived at the Piłsudski Institute and is accessible to researchers the art that was inspired by the interviews was supposed to be presented during the event finalising the project and at a dedicated exhibition. However, as the pandemic hit our plans where put to a halt. In response we decided to create a digital space to invite the audience to experience the world created by the artist in reaction to the tales of journey, refuge, love and war. We hope that through focus on image the Art and Memory virtual environment will prompt the viewer to paint their own memories that will flower in audience’s memory inspired by artworks created by Zofia Wyszomirska-Noga.


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