Gliwice, 28 June 1972
I haven’t been writing you back, there are lots of reasons and bad experiences behind it.
First of all, the illness of my brother1 and mine, we are both in the clinic in Katowice, and there were also other unpleasant experiences. Altogether, it kept me from gathering my thoughts and writing to you.
A terrible experience for me is the illness of my brother; in fact he is my cousin, but we have been closest to each other since we were small and we have always lived in the same place (now in Gliwice). He is wise, 55, strong, tall, handsome, an academic – professor – with high aspirations. And suddenly there were pains, seemingly nerve roots – but a month later it turns out to be a tumour of a kidney with metastases, an operation of the kidney and a horrible month, now there is a glimmer of hope, but this nightmare is hanging over us. At nights I am by his side all the time, for I also felt very bad, I was afraid of the same thing, but it is all right. I have been on a strict diet for two months. I lost 58 kg, although I don’t see it, etc.
Finally I decided to go to the clinic. I already have 10 days of tests behind me, but it seems it won’t be so bad. I think I will be out of here around 3 July. It’s good that I am close to my brother and can help him, for he can’t move at all. And besides all this, on the eve of my brother’s operation I had a big fight at the GTF, and finally I took my photos and did not participate part in the anniversary celebrations.2 It cost me a lot of nerves.
It all concerned the young. The commissar was Siemianowski3, who hates the young. One of the young people, whom I always take care of, was an architect one year before graduation, he was studying for an exam – and at the same time he had great photos. He brought me a sample to be presented at the commission, so that we could decide whether to go through with it, and I gave it to Olek [Górski] at the GTF, for Siemianowski was absent – but somehow it got lost. Given that some people, including me, saw the photos and the sample couldn’t be found, the young architect comes and asks if he should go through with it. We told him that yes. Despite studying for an exam, the boy sat down to it and made a very good set, brought it to me and I took them for the exhibition to put them up with my own photos. When I already had one and a half of my cycle stuck on, suddenly Siemianowski (the commissar) shouts very rudely that he won’t accept the photos of this boy, there is no room and he got them too late. Each person usually had two or three boards, while Siemianowski, the commissar, had as many as six boards. I supported this student, I said that I could give one of my boards to him. They started screaming insultingly and Olek, instead of taking my side, also said with an irritated voice, “If there is no room, then we are not accepting him”. Then I (Olek knew that I was badly ill and nervous about my operation, knew how badly I felt) answered that in the light of the above I was not going to take part as well and I took my photos (I asked one guy to help me), which were heavy, for stuck between sheets of glass, and walked away. Olek didn’t stop me and Siemianowski commented that it was great, for he had enough of these artists. Soon after Włodek Jasiński came to my place, wanting to save the situation, but unfortunately Olek didn’t regard it is appropriate to take my side and apologise, and my boards were immediately removed. It was Friday. On Saturday at 1 PM I went there and took down the half of the cycle which had been hung, and I informed them that now they had even more room. The opening was at three, without me, and right after that the young ones came to me with flowers and also Piotruś Janik visited me. I was also absent at all the ceremonies, at the Jubilee and the Biennale of the Young. When Ligocki asked about me, they told him I boycotted them, for I was conceited. And although I received two medals, one from the GTF and the other from the Gliwice Municipality, they claimed this time [to Remiszewski] that I was ill.
What hurt me the most was that Olek, such a good friend, knowing what I was going through at that time, didn’t want to apologise, even by phone, and come to pick me up, and he didn’t in the least regret that I was absent, and although most of my colleagues took my side, he did not make any move. It produced a little scandal, which I didn’t want all.
Siemianowski was shouting that I had only hurt myself, for they didn’t need my photos, but the rest of the visitors would think that I was finished and would judge me only through three very old photos hanging on the so-called retrospective board, which I couldn’t take off at that stage, and he also claimed that I wanted to gain popularity using the young, and said other foolish things.
As luck would have it, about that time I received the Gold Medal at the “Homo 72” in Legnica4 and Janik, who is always a great friend of mine, told it to the press. On top of it, no one wrote anything about Siemianowski, who had shown the biggest number of works. If it concerned only Siemianowski, I wouldn’t care about the whole matter, what hurt me was the position of Olek, who still has not apologised. We met once at a funeral of one colleague, who had just received the 20th anniversary medal and died on the next day.5 But it was only small talk, without speaking about the GTF. Then he visited me for three days in a row with a bunch of red roses. And again we spoke probably for three hours, but without mentioning photography, the GTF and all these incidents at all.
I stopped going to the GTF, but everybody is coming to me. My 20th anniversary medal is in the GTF, not collected.
I am deeply resentful about Olek, whom I like very much after all, especially that it happened just a few hours before my operation. He knew what shape I was in, for when telling him about what I was going through, I started crying, and yet he has not made one single move to fix things. I heard that he had meant to visit me with Włodek one day before my going to the clinic, but he did not come, which is also telling, for many people visited me then.
My illness was also associated with nerves. In late April I made these sets for Fot-Kin in Cologne6, two large ones, which really cost me a lot of health. I usually spent whole nights in my terrible darkroom conditions. Then I immediately started working on photos for our anniversary and moreover, because the paper was old, I had to re-make it two times. I postponed visiting the doctor, I ate nothing but crackers and porridge. And it did affect my health, I have been in the clinic for 10 days, but I am feeling better now and don’t fear for the worst. Now, right after I came back home, I have to make a large exhibition at the Polytechnic School: 12 m, 40 pieces 30 x 40, etc. I don’t know if I can do it, but it is such documentary projects..., etc.
Then I wanted to go with Agatka7 for two weeks to the seaside, but I still don’t know where, probably near Oliwa. And about 5 August I go for a monthly trip to Italy, driving through West Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
I would very much like to go to the Fot-Kino in Cologne, but our Katowice moneygrubbers don’t want to go, for they are not interested, and there is no car which would take me. Jurek [Lewczyński] also wants to go, but his car is an old wreck. I made an application, but I am afraid that nothing will come out of it. It seems to me that it is worth it. The exhibitions are what interests me most. I suppose that our works will also be there, for Gruber8 is supposed to arrive and make the selection himself, and the set is ready.
I would like to see you and hear about what you saw, but for now I don’t know anything beside the plans about which I wrote you above.
(...) Kisses Z PS. I am proud of Ewa, congratulations.
[A note at the top] I am sorry for the terrible handwriting, but [I am writing it] in bed between tests. I have a camera here and I make photos whenever I can.
1) Zbigniew Budzianowski, son of Wanda Budzianowska nee Nowotna, sister of Józefa Nowotny-Rydet, mother of Zofia Rydet, Professor at the Gliwice Polytechnic School, Dean of the Construction Department.
2) Photography Exhibition Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Gliwice Photographic Association, Gliwice, May 1972.
3) Czesław Siemianowski (b. 1937 in Lviv), since 1945 living in Gliwice. Photographer, member of the GTF, museum worker, cultural activist.
4) 5th International Photographic Salon “HOMO 72”, Old Town Hall, Legnica. Zofia Rydet received the Gold Medal for four works from the Transformations cycle.
5) Władysław Dec, the first president of the GTF.
6) International Photographic Fair Photokina in Cologne.
7) Agata Augustyńska, granddaughter of Zofia Rydet’s brother.
8) Leo Fritz Gruber (1908–2005), expert on photography, columnist, collector, curator, in 1950–80, with Bruno Uhl, creator of the International Fair Photokina in Cologne, founder of the German Photographic Association.