In the Eastern Beskids range of the Carpathians, called Bieszczady in Polish, there is the Krzemieniec/Kremenets summit (1221 m a.s.l.), where the borders of Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia converge. In this place there is a granite obelisk with the national emblems of these three countries. This summit and the close area along the main Carpathian ridge form a watershed separating the basins of the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea.
The watershed also symbolically separates the social memories of people living in this Carpathian borderland.
In the early twentieth century this land was still within the borders of one large state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a result of the socio-political transformations new countries along the watershed emerged and collapsed. Several decades ago these multicultural areas, peripheral to political centres, were affected by the Holocaust, Samudaripen, and mass deportations of local people. Nowadays, within a 50 km radius of Kremenets, we can find many traces of people that used to live in these areas: these are abandoned cemeteries, ruins of non-existent villages, etc., as well as commemorations referring to the now non-existing countries and historic events.
Different interpretations of the past and memory politics overlap in the borderlands of nation-states around the Carpathian watershed. Memory is preserved in the borders but also in borderscapes, filled with national symbols and commemorations. Because of shifted state borders, migrations, smuggling, and matrimonial relations, the memory on borderlands resonates with a specific polyphony of voices. For example, we can clearly perceive the clash of “official” memories (national and public), with unofficial memories (folk or grassroots). And although the borderlands of nation-states are still present in the memory politics of nationalizing centres, regimes of state memory and politics of commemoration penetrate to these areas with some limitations.
The presented photographic, audio and video materials were collected as part of the project Broadcasting from the Forgotten European Borderlands: the Carpathian Watershed in a Polyphony of Voices. Under this project various manifestations of memory and commemoration were recorded on each side of the Carpathian watershed. This included memorials directly referring to certain historical events. But we also documented other objects which at first glance do not tell us much about history. They do not stimulate reflection in passers-by, but nevertheless co-create memoryscapes and borderscapes.
As part of field work, we also managed to record the voices of the last surviving witnesses and participants of events.
Voices of people who changed their citizenship without moving from the place where they lived. The story of memories about the Carpathian watershed is like a patchwork, at first glance composed of mismatched fragments, but still forming an integral whole.
Is it possible to narrate the history of this corner of the Carpathian world? Of course it is, but there is more than one version of it: because of the multitude of local and personal experiences, changing borders and regimes of national memory, this world can be explained only by a polyphony of voices.