The Anonymous Passers-by …

As you may know my novel, The Blue Suitcase, was inspired by letters and diaries found after my mum’s death. It is set in Lower Silesia, Germany during the 1930s and 1940s and is the account of an ordinary German Christian girl growing up when Hitler was in power. When I finished writing the The Blue Suitcase I felt a compelling need to go to Silesia and see my Mum’s home and the place I had set my novel but which I had never been to. Incredibly, even though Silesia is no longer part of Germany – after the end of World War II Silesia was given over to Poland – and a very different place from when Mum lived there,  I could identify many of the places mentioned in the letters and dairies and I felt somehow reassured.

A great consequence of going to Silesia was the discovery of lots of wonderful new places and people. One of the most remarkable things I came across was these sculptures in the middle of Wroclaw. The statues, by Jerzy Kalina, are often referred to as  “The Passing” but officially called “Transition” or “The Monument to the Anonymous Passers-by”.  It was erected in December 2005 and commemorates the introduction of martial law and the many people who disappeared and “went underground” in the middle of the night from 13 December 1981. It’s incredible! You’re walking along a busy street and suddenly the statues appear ahead of you. At first glance you don’t realise what you are looking at. Then you “see” a group of seven people disappear into the ground on the one side of the road and a new group appear on the other side.

I found the statues of the mother with the pram and the people submerged up to their waists especially moving. For me the monument connects the suffering of the German Silesians of the past with the suffering of the Polish Silesians of the recent present and is a stark reminder of the terrible consequences to ordinary people when dictators are allowed to rule.

Have you ever suddenly come across a work of art that has moved you? If so, I’d love to hear about it.

As a wee thank you for getting in touch, all the names of those who make a comment in the month of September will go in a hat and one lucky person will win a copy of The Blue Suitcase :0)


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9 Responses to The Anonymous Passers-by …

  1. Beautiful, Marianne.
    Your experience reminds me of a painting I saw in a Moscow art gallery of a woman imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, and the desperation in her eyes as floodwaters stream in through the window bars, and she knows she will not be rescued. The story goes that she was a Romanov, lured to St Petersburg by someone who pretended to love her. It’s an enormous painting full of emotion and I just stared at it for ages. Not quite as personal as your experience, but it reminded me that really, I have been very blessed to grow up in a free and open country, and I should not whinge so much!!

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      What an incredible painting – I’d love to see that – and such a sad story. What terrible things so many people have had to do endure. And I agree, so many of us are lucky to live in a free and open country, we shouldn’t take it for granted – who knows we may not always be so lucky?!

      Thanks for comment:o)

  2. Katrina says:

    Hi Marianne.

    Wow them sculptures are incredible!

    Kind Regards


  3. what an astonishing sculpture, so moving and beautiful.

    It reminds me in a sense of a peace monument in Vienna, which is a smallish sculpture in a city square, but one you can walk round and feel part of. It’s really beautiful and moving too.

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      It’s quite incredible how moving art can be, isn’t it? On that same trip we also went to Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now called Terezin in the Czech Republic. It was a very chilling visit and so sad. What terrible times in those days for so many people in Europe. The peace monument in Vienna sounds incredible. I think art is different from historic remembrance type monuments/buildings because art can also inspire hope, thank goodness!

  4. I’m looking forward very much to reading The Blue Suitcase too, it’s the next novel on my list.

  5. Pingback: gnomes as you’ve never seen them before (wroclaw continued …) | Marianne Wheelaghan

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