Joanna Rajkowska, Around Us a Sea of Fire The Fate of Jewish Civilians Druing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Around Us a Sea of Fire
The Fate of Jewish Civilians Druing the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

18 April 2023 - 8 January 2024

Group Exhibition, Polin, Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Curated by Zuzanna Schnepf-Kołacz


Around Us a Sea of Fire. The Fate of Jewish Civilians During the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is the first exhibition devoted to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, (19 April 1943), focusing on the perspective of civilians. During the uprising, civilians hid in bunkers and shelters, defying Nazi Germany’s system of deportations and mass murder. Instead of responding to summons to turn up for transports heading towards imminent death, they remained in hiding. Their silent act of resistance was as important as armed combat.


For the exhibition, Joanna Rajkowska prepared a project We live day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute (Eye of Krystyna Budnicka/Hena Kuczer), a monumental eye that confronts us. The eye is of Krystyna Budnicka (previously Hena Kuczer), a Warsaw resident and the only survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising still alive at the time of the project. The title of the work is taken from the diary left by another ghetto inhabitant, describing life during the uprising.


The eye of Krystyna Budnicka is not an abstract eye, it is not symbolic or metaphoric. It is her eye, material, unique and fragile. A part of the body, that was suffering, being confined and sentenced to extermination. Rajkowska points at the ultimate border line – mere physical survival defined by the fragility of the human organism. This is also the eye that has seen the bunker, the suffering and the cruelty of the perpetrators. This eye had seen and contained it all. Memories, in this project, are part of every single cell of our body.


Within the exhibition, the play of glances repeats the ghastly exchanges of 1943. It reaches for what was the experience of the insurgents, witnesses and victims every day, hour and minute.