The Palka Diaries: website project for World Tree

Through their friendship with artist Adrian Palka, of the University of Coventry, World Tree has become involved in an extraordinary project involving family and world history, landscape and memory.

In June 2008 Kalina and Adrian Palka, inherited a wartime diary from their Polish father Jan Palka, who had just died, in Leeds where he had lived for over 60 years. Starting on the eve of the outbreak of war in August 1939 the diary was written in two parts, the first by Zygmunt, their grandfather and the second, after Zygmunt’s death in Siberia, by Jan himself.

One important section of the diary tells the story of their arrest by the NKVD (Russian political police) and subsequent deportation to a forced labour camp in Siberia, Zygmunt’s death and Jan’s survival. The narrative gives both a detailed factual account of their plight and a personal emotional record of this dark period in history.

In 2013 Adrian retraced the footsteps of the journey narrated within the diary as a family history project to gather materials for educational and artistic use as well as for personal reflection.
The project was conducted as part of the “All Our Stories Scheme” offered by the Heritage Lottery Fund and also as part of his work as a senior lecturer, researcher and artist in the Performing Arts Department at Coventry University.

In collaboration with Adrian, World Tree has now created a website, www.palkadiaries.com, telling the story of the diary and of the men who created it. As well as material from the diary itself, it includes a record of artistic interventions made by Adrian and his colleagues as they re-traced his ancestors' journey - and an interactive Google map letting people re-trace that journey on today's landscape. It will continue to be updated as Palka's research and outreach work continues. Please take a look!