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Nostalgia: a life disrupted by war

The photography series ‘Nostalgia’ tells the story of an immigrant’s remembrance of a life disrupted by war. Cold earth and blackened gun-metal. Taking with you only the most precious and essential. Cast alone amongst thousands; forced, overnight, to leave their home, their family, their animals, and the places they love; fractious, precarious, putting their lives in the hands of strangers. You still feel it, every moment. It’s hard to forget who you used to be, and what was once yours. The new identity is painful, one described by your nationality, an absence, and the place where your heart still lies.


Through memories, you belong to a different place, landscape, climate, and environment. In your homeland the seasons had another smell and colour; the rain felt different, the sun was warmer on your face; the fruit sweeter; the trees rustled unlike anywhere else. These surroundings shaped you, and made you remember who you are, and where you came from.

You are a stranger in a new place. People don’t trust you. Under apparent kindness, eventually hostility will emerge. They don’t know if you are a victim or aggressor, but you are indifferent to their judgement. You are tied to your nostalgia, which kills you every day.

Overburdened by memory, you dream about a return to the land where you left your soul.

But is it possible? Will there be anything to come back to? Can your motherland still your home? Does a past life that was razed to the ground have any chance of being reborn? If so, in what form? How to recognise people you don’t know anymore? Will they recognise you? Will your memory survive in them, or will you be forever a stranger? How to forget those who suffered: killed, raped, displaced, and robbed of everything that is human? For how long should one remember the barbarity of the enemy, and how can we ensure their crimes will not fade from the pages of history books? How will they not become rationalised to people of good will? Will the world forgive and forget too soon?

These invaders never respect occupied lands and the human beings who created their own worlds there. Filled with contempt and hatred, they wipe out every shred of past existence. They are ready to uproot every tree, annihilate every home, burn libraries, museums, galleries, bomb opera houses and theatres to install a new order, culture, and new language.

Despite the immensity of their cruelty, no punishment has ever befallen them, or will.

For history, the death of the masses means nothing. The games of clowns and psychopaths at war one day end. Weaponised human bodies are finite and cannot fight forever. The idea of peace sounds enthusiastic, but rebuilding takes time and wounds never heal. They will live on in the next generations, as trauma, and collective memory.

Afterwards, is it possible to return, and to what end? What of those who had to flee somewhere to a foreign land, to start again amongst seemingly friendly people?

Emigrant limbo: the state between two different pasts. Arriving in a new land is also history.

In the end, it appears Nostalgia is a state between reality and sleep; a haven, a place of exile and eternal seclusion, where you can immerse yourself in a childhood landscape outside the contemporary narrative.

A kaleidoscope. You shift the images in your head, one on top of another, and turn them upside down: colours, smells, sounds, feelings and events mix, one in the other. For a moment, you’re where you belong — no longer a stranger.

In nostalgia, every time you close your eyes, you reach home. You didn’t die, and you will survive.

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Monika K. Adler

Monika K. Adler is photographer and film director known for her challenging and provocative photography and experimental films. Her works have shown in hundreds… More »

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