News / 25 Oct 2018

‘Go Home, Polish’ Graffiti inspires Photographer’s 1,200-Mile Journey to Discover the Meaning of ‘Home’

On April 27th 2018, photographer, Michal Iwanowski began his 1,200-mile journey on foot.

Michal Iwanowski, 41, has lived in Wales for over 17 years but is originally from Poland. During 2008, he noticed graffiti in a back alley of Cardiff that read, ‘Go home, Polish’. He dwelled on this for a few years, conflicted between his two nationalities and whether he was really at home in Wales. During the summer of 2018, Michal Iwanowski responded to the graffiti and began his travel home with a Welsh passport in one hand and a Polish one in the other.

After drawing a straight line on a map, Iwanowski followed it travelling through Wales, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic to his home village of Mokrzeszow, Poland. The journey took 105 days to complete, averaging at 10 hours of walking per day. Iwanowski documented everything online on his Instagram page, taking photos and writing statuses about the people and places he encountered. His work is still online to view today:

The expedition was an exploration of the idea of ‘Home’ and belonging, it was Iwanowski’s attempt to understand the world he comes from and the boundaries inside it. It was physically exhausting but ultimately restored his faith in people and their kindness. Even with the darker moments he encountered, revealing the fear and misunderstanding of immigration after the 2016 Brexit referendum, it was still an extremely positive and thought-provoking experience.

The photographer’s main goal was to meet people and see their reactions to his nationality, to listen to their own ideas of the meaning of ‘Home’. When describing the project on his website, Iwanowski states that people responded to his question in a “deeply personal way: human to human, rather than citizen to foreigner.” Many answered by touching their hearts, few answered with their nationality and only one chased him away, unwilling to help.

His journey and exhibition grabbed the attention of many online and has appeared in numerous articles, including The Guardian, BBC Wales and more. However, it wasn’t the first walk he finished. In 2013, Iwanowski’s project entitled, ‘Clear the People’ included him retracing his grandfather’s escape from the Russian gulag with his brother from the Siberian town of Kaluga back to Poland. It was a 1,360-mile journey, not much further than his most recent voyage.

As ‘Go Home, Polish’ gained more and more attention, two Welsh musicians decided to promote Iwanowski’s work, releasing two songs inspired by the poignant project. The artists, Gwenno Saunders and W.H. Dyfodol can be found online along with their resulting songs.

Iwanowski’s ‘Go Home, Polish’ is still on show at Galeri, Caernarfon, Wales until November 2nd and in Instytut Ffotografii Fort, Warsaw, Poland until November 25th for anyone curious to see and learn more about his remarkable story.