Winner of Asymptote Journal’s 2016 Close Approximations Translation Contest and Shortlisted for the Ryszard Kapuscinski Prize, Filip Springer’s History of a Disappearance is a fascinating true story of a small mining town in the southwest of Poland – Miedzianka that, after seven centuries of history, disappeared.
In this work of unsparing and insightful reportage, renowned journalist, photographer, and architecture critic Filip Springer rediscovers this small town’s fascinating history. Digging beyond the village’s mythic foundations and the great wars and world leaders that shaped it, Springer catalogs the lost human elements: the long-departed tailor and deceased shopkeeper; the parties, now silenced, that used to fill the streets with shouts and laughter; and the once-beautiful cemetery, with gravestones upended by tractors and human bones scattered by dogs. In Miedzianka, Springer sees a microcosm of European history, and a powerful narrative of how the ghosts of the past continue to haunt us in the present.
Coppferberge, Kopferberg, Kupferberg, and later Miedzianka. A town; and in the town – a church, bakery, pharmacist’s, inn, brewery, paper-mill, forge and hairdresser’s. There were weddings there, children were born, somebody died. Supposedly, the town was cursed as at some point, a man murdered his own brother. And two crosses were put up beside the road: one of them read: ”Memento”, so the tragedy would not go forgotten. ”History has never really arrived here; more adequately, it just kept wandering about the neighbourhood”, writes Filip Springer in his debut book about the town which used to exist but does not anymore. The process of disappearing started with a cherry tree, devoured one time by a crack in the ground; the tree still had fruit on its top branches. Houses, tombs, started to sink deeper and deeper into the ground. People would vanish into thin air. Girls played with crystals from church chandeliers and boys reached into old, derelict graves to take out old skulls buried long before. What made the town, the seven-centuries-old town, cease to exist? Are the damages resulting from Uranium excavations conducted by the Russians between 1948 and 1952 to blame? Or, maybe, the underlying cause was the Evil Woman mentioned by the one-time Miedzianka inhabitants who fled the town? This polyphonic story of Miedzianka does not provide answers for all posed questions but the memory of the town has been preserved.
Filip Springer (b. 1982 in Poznań) is a photographer and journalist, whose works are published in all-Poland magazines such as ”Polityka” weekly. In 2010, he received a grant awarded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and in 2012, he was included in the ”Młoda Polska” (”Young Poland”) grant programme of the National Cultural Centre. Filip Springer co-created a project under the name “Ill – Bred” (”Źle Urodzone”), dedicated to documenting historic buildings of the post-war Modernist era in Poland and presenting them to broad audiences; in March 2012, a book covering this issue was published by Karakter. ”Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing” (”Miedzianka. Historia znikania”) is Filip Spinger’s début in the field of literature.
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