Photographer walks 1,900km from Wales to Poland in response to anti-migrant message

Polish-born photographer Michal Iwanowski walked for around 10 hours a day and stayed at Airbnb apartments or camped along the route.
Polish-born photographer Michal Iwanowski walked for around 10 hours a day and stayed at Airbnb apartments or camped along the route.PHOTO: FACEBOOK / MICHAL IWANOWSKI
Photographer Michal Iwanowski walked from Wales to Poland in response to an anti-migrant message which said "Go Home, Polish".
Photographer Michal Iwanowski walked from Wales to Poland in response to an anti-migrant message which said "Go Home, Polish".PHOTO: MICHAL IWANOWSKI

It took Polish-born photographer Michal Iwanowski a total of 105 days to walk 1,900km from Wales to Poland.

The journey, which began on April 27, was inspired by a piece of anti-migrant graffiti Mr Iwanowski had seen scrawled on a wall in Cardiff in 2008, which said "Go Home, Polish".

"I wasn't shocked, but it stayed with me," Mr Iwanowski told The Guardian.

"I started thinking, 'Should I be really going home or am I already home?'"

A decade later, amid widespread anti-immigration sentiment which fuelled Britain's vote to leave the European Union, the 41-year-old photographer said he felt it was the right time to address the question.

Mr Iwanowski said in an interview with Euronews: "The only way for me to find out where home was for me was to walk from my home in Cardiff where I have lived for 17 years, to the home of my birth in Poland, and to ask people along the way: 'Where is it? Where is home? What does it mean if I tell you to go home?'"

The photographer walked for around 10 hours a day and stayed at Airbnb apartments or camped along the route.

He documented his experiences on Instagram along the way, sharing self-portraits and re-enactments of stories he heard on his travels.

The journey, which took him through England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and the Czech Republic, was funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

It is now featured in exhibitions in Wales and Poland.

Mr Iwanowski said he had initially set out with "a very cynical attitude", with the expectation of confrontation and political talk.

However, the journey ultimately left him with a more positive attitude towards people.

It also helped him discover what home truly meant.

"It seems as individuals we understand home on a much more emotional level… safety, comfort and inclusion are the factors that make us recognise a place at home," said Mr Iwanowski to Euronews.

"I don't recognise the smaller-scale, administrative definition of home. I find myself in the more global or universal scale - I belong to a landscape before I belong to a country."

Mr Iwanowski had previously walked over 2,000km for his project, Clear of People, where he retraced his grandfather's escape from a Russian gulag in 1945.