Pictures of Central and Eastern Europe scanned from gelatin silver film camera negatives.

I journeyed to central and eastern Europe in 1994 with my then wife and, for the first month in Poland, her parents, both of whom were Holocaust survivors. It was in-part, a pilgrimage to the land of our forebears. But it was also a chance to see what had become of a storied and troubled corner of the Old World only four years after the collapse of the iron curtain. My maternal grandfather, who had fled pogroms, piety and poverty for Australia in the 1920’s, warned me that “For us, Poland is just a big cemetery. Don’t go”. I ignored his pleading only to find how accurate his words were. Almost all evidence of pre-war Jewish (and Roma) heritage, not destroyed by the Nazis had been erased or allowed to decay to ruin, by the communists. Most Jewish cemeteries were vandalized and un-signposted. Even at Auschwitz lists of the nationalities of victims elided identifying the ethnicity of its largest group. And ancient prejudices remained. Anti-semitic mutterings were frequent. In one small town we encountered the menacing scowls of a crowd of locals. In the central square of a second we were nearly trampled by a horse that someone had sent galloping straight at us. In a third we had to dodge the swipes of a knife-wielding drunk yelling “brudni Żydzi” (filthy Jews). At that time Poland was still a poor country. Yet there was building going on everywhere. But it wasn’t houses or factories or transport or service infrastructure. On almost every hilltop and in many town centres new or remodeled chapels, churches and cathedrals were appearing. Poland’s pre-war religosity, suppressed for half a century, was being reasserted.

Crossing into the Czech Republic we looked forward to reveling in the storied beauty of the Karkonosze Mountains only to find it was a zone of leafless blackened pine, spruce and beech killed by industrial acid rain. We retreated to magnificent Prague, then on to Slovakia, Hungary and finally, the glorious mountains of Bulgaria. I had brought my treasured twin lens Rollieflex camera and a dozen rolls of monochrome film. I had expected to document European nature and street life but in most places, beset by the desultory experience of Poland, I found myself pointing the camera at cemeteries, synagogues, stone and sky.