The London National Portrait Gallery holds a portrait of an extremely colorful character that was Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart. One-eyed British officer lost the second while fighting in Somalia, one-handed – he lost the other one at Ypres, shot in the leg and foot at Somme, the leg in Cambrai, the hip at Passchendaele, with weakened lungs shot in South Africa, seemed to be a man forgotten by death. It was joked that fate also appreciated his righteousness and right-wing views, as all memorabilia of the war concerned his left side of the body. During World War I, he was seconded to the Polish army in which he spent 5 years as an adviser. After the fight, Sir Adrian did not intend to return to the club life of the London aristocracy. He asked his adjutant, Karol,
Prince Radziwiłł, for help in finding a place to live a little in peace. “Maybe a forester’s lodge over Lwa, an island two times smaller than a polo field, thirty kilometers from my Mankiewicz? Similar distances to the railway line, a decent road and the nearest store. Wilderness, silence which in Africa would be hard to find “- suggested the prince. “I’ll take it” – the general responded in 1923 and remained in his loneliness for many years. Apparently for the winter he moved to London, from where in the early spring he escaped to his beloved fishery. He plunged into the nostalgic landscape of Polesie through lazy, greasy, rusty, stinking waters, with only mud and water around, and silence everywhere. He took with him a supply of canned food, tea, tobacco, and ammunition for several months. For long months, Sir Adrian became a mythic figure … existing in the most primeval region of Europe.
Such was Polesie until the 1920s. Full of swamps, canals, inaccessible for people temporarily flooded areas of the wildest nature in Europe. Ancient times placed here the legendary place of Ovid’s exile, while Herodotus, having no possibility of obtaining information about this area, placed the Sea in this part of the world. Nature resembling the Amazon basin to some people, with inhabitants of archaic culture, where the elements of pre-Christian culture entwined with Christianity and practiced almost without participation of the clergy lasted during the Second World War. This area was noticed ethnographically at the beginning of the 20th century, although full research was not done. The First World War brought relatively small material losses to Polesie, yet it introduced new people into it. However, the effect of World War II was the transformation by the communist authorities of the area which was ameliorated and the people who were relatively easily converted into homo-sovieticus…
The photographs presented below were taken in thesummer of 1929 by Stanisław Bochnig participating in the expedition organized by the Central Bureau for the Inventory of Monuments at the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment. The iconographic material collected then presents a unique view of the landscape, nature, elements of culture, which ten years later began to be intensively destroyed, so that in the 1950s, Polesie, as we had known, completely went into the realm of myth and legend fueled, among others, by luckily preserved photographs…, which we leave without detailed signatures, and the names of the places recorded by the photographer on the envelopes of the negatives are only places on the long-obsolete maps of Polesie.