“I believe fate is an important part of life. Of all our lives, my own included .... To understand where you are in the present it is necessary to retrace the steps of your life and isolate the parts played by necessity, free will and pure chance.”
- Krzysztof Kieslowski
On the eve of the Kieslowski festival in Sokolowsko, the small town in Poland I fell in love with this summer and am planning to move to, I went to the opening of an exhibition in Barcelona. I had been thinking about going up and down for the festival, Kieslowski is a director I highly admire, a filmmaker who can be regarded as a philosopher, poet and humanist, his work being deeply concerned with questions of an existential nature and with moral dilemmas faced by ordinary people. His view of human nature is honest but always compassionate. He considered himself among the weak and ignorant and often professed the Socratic sentiment that he was someone who didn't know, who was searching for answers. Chance plays a big role in his stories. In an interview he once said that he wished to show nothing other than the fact that life is complex.
I had planned to go back to Sokolowsko in time, but my old lover, Barcelona, had gotten a hold on me again and I figured Sokolowsko could wait. If it was true love, I would return anyway. And Kieslowski is present in everything in Sokolowsko, at every moment. He spent nine years of his life there and the cinema where he used climb on the roof to watch the films through a small hole, is still in use. The Kieslowski archive is there, his footsteps are tstill present, his ways of looking. I don’t need the festival to be immersed in his energy.
The opening was at Mitte, one of my favorite places in Barcelona. When I lived in Gracia I often passed by for a coffee or lunch on my way to the sea. There is art and there are books and good food for a good price. I like the atmosphere, the music.
When I arrived, there was quite a crowd, people smoking and drinking outside, inside it was packed. I moved through the concentration of people to see if some of my Barcelona friends were there and when I didn’t see anybody I decided to smoke a cigarette before entering. With my back towards the crowd I smoked. Then somebody tapped on my shoulder. It took me a second to realize who it was and where we had met. Luca. The street artist I encountered in Poland during the experimental music festival. He was visiting Sokolowsko because he was commisioned to do a big mural in a city nearby. Yes, I knew he was based in Barcelona but still .... what are the odds with both of us moving around in the world all the time and Barcelona being quite a big city.
We talked about Sokolowsko, Soko as people call it there. And after he left I went inside, ordered a beer, sat on one of the comfortable benches and realised I was carrying a Sokolowsko bag.
Afterwards I went to another opening but I was too late and decided to eat diner in one of my other favorite places, El Mosquito where they serve freshly made Asian tapas. I sat at the bar like I always do when I’m there on my own, I ordered what I always order and read the digital version of De Groene Amsterdammer, one of the oldest Dutch newsmagazines still in existence, intellectually left-wing and progressive. It is the only thing I have a subscription on, still paying the low student rate, first illegally but when they wrote me a letter asking if I was still studying and I replied I didn’t but couldn’t afford the full price, they kindly allowed me to keep paying as little as possible.
They invest in doing proper research and go deep into matters. And as always I read many interesting things. But what struck me most, for different reasons than acquiring some new insights, was a small article about the “hottest spot” in Poland, the place where the hidden nazi train filled with gold was found. I had already heard the story from two friends in Barcelona on two seperate occasions but only now I read where it was found. Wałbrzych. It wasn’t spelled right in the article and it took me some trouble myself to find the Polish “l” with the stroke that is pronounced like our “w”. I tried the word in my mouth and I remembered how hard I had tried in Sokolowsko. Because it is the city nearest to this tiny mountain village. Wałbrzych. I bought an old compass there. I’ve got it with me in Barcelona. It will show me the way.