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Ewa Wnęk-Webb

Ewa Wnęk-Webb

I left Poland in 1957. Along with my mother we went on M / S "Batory" from Gdynia to Southampton at the end of August. It was probably the first post-war emigration from Poland to reunite families. My father had lived in England since the end of World War II.

Education, work, creating

My feelings during the journey were mixed. On the one hand, it was a great sorrow to leave the country, because at that time it was not known whether it would be possible to return, on the other hand, there was a great curiosity about a new country and, of course, meeting with my father. England in the 1950s was quite different from the rest of Europe. I studied English for two years and for two years I cried out of longing for Polish.

I began to acclimate only when I went to study art. After five years at London's Saint Martin's School of Art, Chelsea College of Art and London College of Printing I got a degree and started working as a graphic designer. Those first years were difficult because my father had rented an apartment, and after our arrival in England, he decided to buy a house. We had to renovate it on our own, even though we didn’t have any experience in this field. During my studies I received a scholarship from the Polish Education Committee, where my father worked. It was not a high scholarship, I had to moonlight to buy clothes and materials needed at studies. I worked as a waitress, maid, in a candy factory, I sold ice cream in St James's Park.

The 1960s for my generation were the best years of life in London. The famous Carnaby Street was teeming with life. London was the place where fashion and interior designers (Mary Quant, Conran etc.) gained fame, also a lot of young actors and musicians were successful at that time. In my first job as a graphic designer I met my future husband, an Englishman. We got married in the late 1960s. My husband got familiar with Poland, its history, with Polish food and my family.

When children began to come into the world, and there were three of them, I decided to switch to painting and work in the studio, which we created in the attic. It paid off very well, because I had space to paint and began to reap benefits of my work. I had my works exhibited in many prestigious galleries in England and abroad, and I worked on commissions. With a group of local artists we transformed a large church, that for many years hadn’t functioned anymore, into a great artistic center, where twice a year there are hosted art exhibitions. In addition, I joined the Association of Polish Artists in Great Britain, where for several years I had a function of a secretary and so far I am still its member. I also belonged to three British art associations. My wonderful mother, at a time when I could devote myself to work, cooked and took care of the garden.

Scattered around the world

As for my biggest success in life, it is our three wonderful children. My daughter for several years lived in San Francisco and worked for Apple as an art director in Silicon Valley. When I visited her, I had a trip to California, the view of which gave me many subjects to paint. Now my daughter lives in New York, which is inspiration for me as well. The elder son is an architect and works in London. At the time when Berlin was developing in a frenzied pace, he worked there for several years. It was an opportunity to paint a series of pastel paintings of the two capitals, topped with a successful exhibition in London.

The younger son is a co-owner of a web designing company in London. His wife is from Spain, I have visited her hometown several times. So I must admit that I have plenty of inspiration. Of course, my second success in life is my creative work, which for years gave me great spiritual as well as material satisfaction.

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Further road

In 2007, when my mother died at the age of 101, we decided to leave England. London became commercial, expensive and overcrowded. It may seem frenzy that being already over sixty years old we decided to leave for France, speaking virtually no French. It wasn’t for me that dramatic, if you once uprooted yourself, you can live anywhere in particular with the knowledge of English. So we sold the house, paintings and all our belongings earned for the 40 years we put into storage, and the money to the bank.

In Burgundy, in a charming, stony village on the hilltop we found a house with a nice view and a large garden, as well as friendly and helpful neighbors. We try to participate in various local events. We still learn the language, which at our age does not come easily. We are already part of the local society. In addition, we belong to "Burgundy Friends" association, which brings together English-speaking people scattered in the region, and where I am a secretary. This is a very active organization, so we cannot complain about the lack of cultural and social life. I paint and I am constantly looking for places to exhibit my works. I have had several exhibitions, which were very well received. We also arrange exhibitions together with French artists. We try to be once a year in Poland to visit the family. We divide our time between Poland, New York and London.

Emigration is a positive experience, because working and living among other nationalities, races, religions and orientations, a man gets more understanding and tolerance for others. After so many years abroad I would define myself as a European woman of Polish roots.