19-20 06.2017

Shared History

St. John's Centre

To celebrate World Refuge Day, we are pleased to invite you to St. John’s Centre in Gdańsk for the inauguration of the project in the Open House formula.

The programme includes exhibitions, film showings, performances and a debate participated by Mieczysław Abramowicz, Piotr Olech, Vahram Mkhitaryan, Ibrahim Mouhanna, Agnieszka Wołodźko and others.

Humanitarian law does not say that refugees should be received because it is profitable – it just states that it should be done [...]. Refugees’ needs are just the same as ours. That is why integration programmes should be improved to enable unification of these communities.

Rafał Kostrzyński – Spokesman of UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Poland

For centuries Gdańsk has owed its development and beauty to many foreigners arriving from faraway regions: the Netherlands, Germany, Scotland, France and other places. They were representatives of various religions: Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism… Today might be called immigrants or refugees. They settled here, using their talents and abilities in the service of the city. Hundreds of these “single narratives” of newcomers and long-established residents of Gdańsk have blended together to form a unique architectural and intellectual structure of the city. Following the ravages of World War II, new residents arrived from various regions of Poland – also those just torn away from the Polish territory. These new arrivals largely built the city from scratch. 
Gdańsk – the city of freedom and solidarity – remains open to this day. It is here that Poland’s first Model of Immigrant Integration was developed. In connection with the establishment of the Immigrant Council under the auspices of the President of Gdańsk, Paweł Adamowicz said: “Welcome to Gdańsk – we invite you to discover the city and its residents and ask you to respect our customs. But we want to get to know you as well. The Immigrant Council will advise all the municipal administration on how to ensure your better integration in our city". The President also stressed that he wants to show Poland to Europe not as a xenophobic country but as an open, joyful and supportive nation. 

SHARED HISTORY is a project developed jointly by the Baltic Sea Culture Centre in Gdańsk, LCCA (Latvian Modern Art Centre) from Riga and Fargfabriken from Stockholm. It is based on the concept of history as a combination of individual experiences that together make up a portrait of the multinational and multicultural country. In the Polish edition of the project we look at Gdańsk from a historical perspective as a city to which “everyone brought the best things they had” – to quote the title of a book by Mieczysław Abramowicz. 

This openness of Gdańsk must have been noticed by the European Commission, because the SHARED HISTORY project was one of the 12 winning projects (out of 274 applicants) within Creative Europe – a programme supporting the integration of refugees through cultural, audio-visual and cross-sectoral projects promoting the social inclusion of refugees, increasing mutual understanding, developing cross-cultural and interfaith dialogue, as well as tolerance and respect for other cultures.

As part of SHARED HISTORY project, artists from Poland, Latvia and Sweden will work together with artists from Syria who have found their new home in Sweden. The outcome of this artistic cross-cultural dialogue will be presented at the exhibitions to be held in Gdańsk, Riga and Stockholm net year. The artistic tandem working in Gdańsk consists of a visual artist Agnieszka Wołodźko and a film director Ibrahim Mouhanna. Their joint work will be presented in St. John’s Centre in May 2018.

SHARED HISTORY is not only an artistic vision, but also the process of education and promotion of refugee integration in which we will be supported by a group of local partners, such as the Immigrant Council under the auspices of the President of Gdańsk, Immigrant Support Centre in Gdańsk, Culture Group at  the Model of Immigrant Integration coordinated by the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, Gdańsk Foundation and ARTeria Association.

Organiser: Baltic Sea Culture Centre in Gdańsk
Partners: Fargfabriken, Stockholm (project leader); LCCA, Riga
Project co-financed by Creative Europe Programme
Concept and Coordination: Magdalena Zakrzewska-Duda
Curator: Anna Zalewska-Andruszkiewicz


19 JUNE 2017 / 06:00 p.m.

1. Presentation of the SHARED HISTORY project concept by partners from Stockholm, Riga and Gdańsk and the artistic team: Poland-Syria/Sweden

2. “Multicultural Gdańsk” discussion - a general introduction to the multicultural history of Gdańsk (Mieczysław Abramowicz – writer, theatre historian and director); the present and the past (Piotr Olech – Deputy Director of the Department of Social Development of the City Council in Gdańsk, Julia Szawłowska – Immigrant Support Centre)

3. Film screenings (50 min) will highlight the impact of migration on film art. The selection of films is intended to draw attention to the cosmopolitan nature of the film industry. The common feature of the two films is that they were created by directors working away from their homeland: one immigrated to Poland (Mkhitaryan) while the other emigrated from it (Polański). The films also have the common animal theme, taking both stories beyond the limitations of space and time.

A film expert from Gdańsk University will give an introduction before the film screening.

“Milk Brother” (2014, directed by Vahram Mkhitarin, 30').
It is a story about a boy who would like to have a younger brother. The ten-year-old Seto is looking forward to the birth of his sibling. In the meantime his family takes in a lamb rejected by its herd... "Milk Brother” was directed by an Armenian, shot in Armenia and produced in Poland.

VAHRAM MKHITARYAN was born in 1977 in Erevan, Armenia. He is a director and photographer. In 2001 he graduated from the the Armenian State University of Pedagogy, Faculty of Culture, specialising in film directing. After graduation he specialised mainly in the development of public service advertisements as a director, cinematographer and screenwriter He came to Poland for the first time in 2005, having been awarded a grant by Lane Kirkland Polish-American Freedom Foundation. He liked it here, so he returned after a few years and settled in Poland for good. He now works as an assistant at the Interdepartmental ASP Photography College in Gdańsk. In 2009 and 2011 he was awarded “Gaude Polonia” scholarship by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. He completed a fiction film course “Studio Prób” and a documentary course at Andrzej Wajda School of Film Directing. In 2014 he completed his first independent short documentary "Shepherd’s Song” and his short film debut “Milk Brother”. Both films are first examples of Polish–Armenian co-production.

“Mammals” (1962, directed by Roman Polański, 10')
The short film focuses on the mechanisms of interpersonal relations, illustrated by the story of two men travelling across a snowy area. It was created just before the director’s departure from Poland, on the threshold of his great international career.

4. “How to be an immigrant artist” – debate Discussion moderator – Agnieszka Wołodźko
The artists will talk about the role of art in the integration and  assimilation of artists in a foreign country and local environment and artists’ experiences in Poland and Sweden.

Discussion participants:
1/ Vahram Mkhitaryan / Armenia
2/ Ibrahim Mouhanna / Syria/Sweden 
3/ Iwona Zając / Poland
4/ Dorota Walentynowicz / Greece
5/ Aurora Lubos / Poland, England

5. “Out of Water” – performance by Aurora Lubos (10’)

AURORA LUBOS is an independent artist and performer connected with British and Gdańsk contemporary scene. She has produced several powerful solo performances, touching upon such issues as domestic violence.
The artist was born in 1977. She has cooperated with Gdańsk Dance Theater, Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre, Żak Club and others. Since 2000 she has been an actress of the renowned British Vincent Dance Theatre, giving performances in the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Spain and Scotland. She has worked together with Avi Kaiser, Honorata Martin, Leszek Bzdyl, Melissa Monteros, Tatiana Baganowa. Now she lives and works in a village near Skarszewy and in Brighton in the UK. She is the author of several dance shows: solo shows ("Zanzibar", "Niedokończone", "Nóż, koń i schody", "Akty", "Nie Wolno"); installations/performances ("Akt1", "4 Kąty", "Akt na dwie – Ostatki", "Bez Domu"); animations ("Winter 2010” series).

OPEN HOUSE / St. John’s Centre 19–20 JUNE / 12.00–06.00 p.m.

Two days of presentations and film screenings – review of previous Baltic Sea Culture Centre projects concerning refugees, immigrants and cross-cultural dialogue.


• Presentation of photo-essays by Maciej Moskwa, awarded and presented at Gdańsk Press Photo post-award exhibition ("Uchodźcy", "Granica", "Rzeczy")
• Documentary – report from the Festival of World Culture "Window Onto the World" 2013 – “Art for democratic revolution”
• Exhibition of works by Khaled Basmadji (a Syrian living in Gdańsk) highlighting his personal story connected with the outbreak of the war in Syria.


Born in 1977, in Gdansk - visual artist working with photography, video, installation and performance. Characteristic trait of her work is a continuous process of dialectic feedback between technology and nature, theory and practice, logic and intuitive cognition.

Dorota Walentynowicz is a graduate of the University of Gdańsk (2001), University of Arts in Poznań (2005) and Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague (2007). Holder of numerous scholarships and residencies awarded by Kunsthalle Krems (2013), Museums Quartier in Vienna (2010), Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland (2010, 2014), Huygens Scholarship Netherlands (2006).

Installations and photographs of the artist were exhibited at such venues as State Gallery of Art (Sopot), Galerie Stadtpark (Krems), Biennale WRO (Wrocław), Transmediale Festival (Berlin), Arsenal Gallery (Poznan), V2_Institute (Rotterdam), Kunstlerhaus (Vienna), Austrian Culture Forum (Warsaw), Laznia Center for Contemporary Art (Gdańsk), Museum of Photography (Amsterdam), Stroom Foundation (The Hague), Bunkier Sztuki Gallery (Cracow), Gdańsk City Gallery (Gdańsk), Lisa Ruyter Gallery (Vienna), Kunstverein (Salzburg), Gallery Kunstbuero (Vienna), BWA Awangarda Gallery (Wroclaw).

She is a member of collectives Dienstag Abend (Vienna) and Pisze/Mowi/Robi (Berlin/London). Lives and works in Gdansk PL and Heraklion GR.


IWONA ZAJĄC, Poland/Great Britain
Born in Gdansk, Poland in 1971. In 1999 she graduated from the Faculty of Painting of the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts and in 2017 from the Inter-faculty doctoral studies there. Her PhD dissertation entitled Hard work miracle as a daily ritual.

Since 2000 she has been working in a field of mural painting. Her work was
presented widely in Poland and abroad. She focuses on social and feminist issues, identity, family ( Mum, The Ideal Woman, The Foreign Woman).

One of her best-known projects is The Shipyard (2004-2013), a series of templates on exterior walls of Gdansk Shipyard, presenting stories of shipyard workers about their life and work.
In recent years her works has focused on her family, women and process of regaining identity.
Iwona Zajac is a co-author of a book The Ideal Woman. From a guide to a dialog (together with Monika Popow) and video works Shipyard Nike Is Leaving and Farewell.


Born in 1977 in Armenia. He is film director and photographer. In 2001, Vahram Mkhitaryan graduated from Armenian State Pedagogical University, Culture Faculty, Department of Feature Films Directing (Dmitry Kesayants’ studio). After that he was engaged in production of Public Service Announcements as film director, cinematographer and scriptwriter. In 2005 he came to Poland as a scholar of The Lane Kirkland Program of Polish-American Freedom Foundation and Polish-American Fulbright Commission. He worked as an assistant at Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk. In 2009 and 2011 received scholarship of Polish Ministry of Culture “Gaude Polonia”. He graduated from Andrzej Wajda School’s programmes - “Development Lab” for feature films and “DokPro” for documentary films. In 2014 he finished his first independent documentary film Shepherd`s Song and short debut film Milky Brother. Both films are first Polish-Armenian co-productions. Presented and awarded on film festivals all over the world.

Artist, curator and cultural researcher. Studies: Academy of Fine Arts, Gdansk, Faculty of Interior Architecture and Industry Design and Faculty of Painting and Graphics (MA). Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Faculty of social Sciences (PhD). As an artist she is involved in photography, installation, ceramics, sound works, actions, artistic workshops for various social groups and creating ideas. She writes about contemporary art and culture, cooperated with “Art Magazine”, was a correspondent of “Flesh Art International”. She is an author of 2 photographic books: Japan 2002-2003. Photographic Diary (2005),  Reading Walls (2014). Currently prepares for publishing a book Encounters and Microutopias. Participatory Art in Scandinavia.  She is the President of the foundation Cultures beyond Culture, curator of the project Room for Improved Futures at the gallery rum46 in Aarhus and a member of the Core Group of international Think Tank Transbaltic. At the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk she runs a course Art in public space for students of the Erasmus program. She lives and works in Poland and Denmark.

Born in 1984 – film director and producer. Graduated from the Damascus University, Faculty of Media and Alma Löv Manus Utbildning. Realized several documentary films about contemporary situation in Syria and educational TV programs for Syrian childern as well as few photographic projects.

NCK supports the campaign Gdańsk Solidarity with the Victims of War 
It will feature Art Alert Gdańsk | charity fair and concert
18 June, 12.00-06.00 p.m.
Its aim is to raise money for children from refugee centres in Poland