In Their Own Words | Michal Chelbin

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, millions of Ukrainian refugees found themselves escaping areas harmed and destroyed by the war. Seeking safety, they fled to neighboring countries such as Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania and Poland. Over six million Ukrainians crossed the border into Poland and these days nearly 1.5 million of them are still residing within Polish borders. At first, overcome by an unimaginable feelings of confusion, chaos, and uncertainty, hundreds of thousands of Polish families came forward to respond to the situation around them, aiding the Ukrainians, opening their homes to countless helpless strangers, particularly women and children, and providing millions of refugees with housing, financial support and protection.

In March 2022, Israeli artist Michal Chelbin traveled to Poland and documented ten families in Warsaw and its suburbs, who were at the beginning of their shared journey, sharing a roof with Ukrainian refugees. Through her portraits, Chelbin aspires to portray the delicate fabric formed among strangers who are intimately exposed to one another at a time of extreme vulnerability. Her works reveal the fragility of her subjects, with the utmost respect for the figures and their current situation, recognizing and understanding that each and every one of us could be caught in a similar situation at any given moment.

Initiated by Michal Chelbin and the Polish Institute Tel Aviv, in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Poland, the careful production of this project was emotionally and logistically complex. Chelbin traveled to Poland accompanied by the Polish Institute’s Director of Cultural Programs, Yasmin Harel, who initiated the project, and Haaretz correspondent Shany Littman, who interviewed the Polish and Ukrainian families. The project gained global interest, it was published on the cover of The Financial Times and Haaretz and was extensively covered in both newspapers.

Curator: Ya’ara Raz Haklai

The project and exhibition were made possible thanks to the Polish Institute Tel Aviv and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, Poland.
The exhibition was made possible thanks to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Israel.

Special thanks to Katarzyna Dzierżawska, Israel Program Manager, Adam Mickiewicz Institute; Yasmin Harel, previous Director of Cultural Programs, The Polish Institute Tel Aviv; and Dorota Kwinta, previous Israel Program Manager, Adam Mickiewicz Institute; Anna Raduchowska – Brochwicz, Director, Polish institute Tel Aviv.

Project Team: Marek Kita, Assistant of Photography; Shany Littman, Journalist; Joanna Tatko, Producer; Olena Trofimchuk, Interpreter; Maria Wodjan, Research Coordinator


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