4 June 2009 | by | In process

At our presentation in Montalvo, as we were talking about the creation of places by avatars, Rory mentioned my fascination with the erasure of memory. Which leads to the following story.

My father was born on a farm near Dubno in the Ukraine, which before the 2nd World War was part of Poland. In 1939, when he was a teen, the entire family, together with thousands of other Poles, were taken by the Russian army to Siberia. Late in life he decided to visit the land where he had been born and raised.

My grandfather’s farm was considered hi-tech. The farm had a large orchard, and he installed an underground cooled cellar. This enabled them to keep fruit throughout the year and sell ‘fresh’ apples in the spring and early summer.

Arriving from the local airport by taxi, my father traveled along the local road, acutely remembering the topography and details in the landscape. Finally he arrived at the hill and fields that used to be his childhood home. Everything had been erased! All the trees had gone, the fields had been merged and now there was nothing but a gently rising giant field. Astonished, he walked onto the earth.

From a distance, a figure walked towards him. Gradually he could make out a man, not much younger than himself. Speaking Russian, my father introduced himself, asking the man about his former home, if he had made some great mistake. “No no”, the man replied, he himself had lived in the same house with the large orchard and cold cellar, and for decades they had an easy life of it, picking fruit and selling it into the next year.

The farm was sold to another local farmer, and when Glasnost occurred and Ukraine became independant, the new owner was so worried that the former residents might take back the farm that they had demolished everything, the farmhouse, the trees, the cellars. Any and all details of the former place had been erased forever.

© Walczak & Solomon