All Saints in Poland
While in some countries people are all dressed up to celebrate Halloween, Poland is getting ready to commemorate Wszystkich Świętych (All Saints) on November the 1st.
It is a huge catholic event, when masses of people flock to visit the deceased at their graves. Without costumes but carrying znicze, zapałki i zmiotki (cemetery lights, matches and brushes). The graves and tombs are carefully cleaned and decorated.
In one day, Polish cemeteries turn into a magic place, adorned by countless candle lights, flowers and wreaths.
When the sun sets, the effect is one of walking through a sea of flames and colours. Beautiful and eerie.
Most people also take care of neglected neighbouring graves and put up a candle, so as to remember the souls of the deceased. It stems from the ancient Slavic pagan custom of Dziady (Forefathers Day), the believe that a forgotten soul would bring bad luck.
Most of my family is buried at the huge Central Cemetery in Szczecin. When lighting a candle I like to think of happy and sad memories of loved ones. Some say a prayer. But mostly, this is the typical scenario.
(Not like this, put the lights to the side) (The yellow flowers go into the vase) (Place the red one to the front) (Put the white one into the middle) (Turn the blue one more to your side) (I found it for just 12 zloty, right at the entrance) (And this wreath, your brother must have bought it)
Szczecin’s Centralny is the third biggest cemetery in Europe, housing impressive tombs of historical figures, restored statues, decorative old graves and many shiny new ones, which are a reflection of Poland’s turbulent history.
And of ourselves.
On All Saints Day the living walk among the dead or maybe the dead are walking among the living.
We might realize that there is less between us that we sometimes like to think.
Inspired by the morbid sweetness of sugar skulls and Mexican Day of the Dead traditions, fascinated by the artistry of the Central Cemetery, we went out to celebrate. The happy times we share, the passing of youth, simply embracing the spell of our cemetery, while our hearts still beat. A tribute to the departed just the same.
I like to think that our pictures captured just that.
Szczecin’s cemetery has a special allure that makes it the creepiest and most appealing public place in the city.
During Tomek’s school days, it was a dreaded test of courage to walk through it at night. No one ever dared.
During the day the cemetery changes its face. It turns into a romantic park with big alleys and winding paths lined by old trees.
On one of our first dates, Tomek took me on an unforgettable walk through the hidden passages of the cemetery. Getting lost was part of the plan. Until dawn. This is when the kingdom of strange sounds and shadows takes over.
We are still here.
I have been with creative people that night.
Agata Kosmacz, the lady in white, is a graphic designer from Szczecin, who makes wonderful things and has hand crafted her outfit using yarn and paper (the white skirt is paper).
Monika Szpener, an established sculptress and Polish artist, pointed us to the most beautiful monuments and various impressive places at the cemetery. Having restored most of the cemetery’s old and damaged statues, her workplace was for a long time the cemetery itself.
Last but not least I was with one more friend. The One, who was also The Photographer for the event.
And then we drove off into the night.
Commemorating the dead until we are united. It is morose and magic at the same time.