Sometimes it seems to me that everything here is going to collapse. The houses, grey from soot, and the broken pavements threatening to fall into the mine corridors below.

I live in a small town in Silesia, a region in Central Europe that includes part of Poland, Germany, and the Czech Republic. At some point there might have been something interesting going on here, but it was so long ago that it has since been buried in memory, hidden from view.

Biology Classroom © Kaja Rata
Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

The town is neither pretty nor ugly. There is no heritage from previous generations, nor any hint of flair in the current ones. If not for the dead mine shafts protruding from below, my town might be located anywhere. Or perhaps it does exist elsewhere, here and there.

“Gdzieniegdzie” in Polish means “here and there.” But this word also has an equivalent in the Silesian dialect—”kajnikaj.” If we use the latter, the dialect allows it some specificity, some locality: my town and my story will become less “here and there” by virtue of their place in Silesia. This is an obvious form of taming reality, which allows us to build upon it and create a mythology of sorts.

Andromeda. © Kaja Rata
Winner, LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2017

When I look at the sky over the decaying town, and when I build rickety contraptions, I am trying to find a means to escape from the place I was born and raised—even though I know it’s a futile attempt.

—Kaja Rata

This project was singled out by the jury of the Emerging Talent Awards 2017. Discover all of the inspiring projects from this year’s 50 talents!