Of all the images documenting individual, personal histories, some have been so thoroughly incorporated into our collective memory discourse that they have become detached from the discrete situations they depict, and have become iconic representations for phrases such as “the horrors of war” or “human evil.”1 One of the most notorious cases of such separation involves the picture of a Jewish child from Warsaw, which has since gone on to become a universal symbol of Holocaust victims worldwide.2 This process of symbolization usually follows more or less pronounced shifts in the interpretation of individual pictures, but in some cases it has involved comprehensive falsification of the origins of the photographs in question. This essay analyzes one such iconic picture, circulated so widely as to become synonymous with the massacres of Poles in Volhynia – since its publication, it has been featured on book covers, memorial posters, and has even served as the prototype for a monument. Informally known as the “wreath of children,” the photograph actually precedes the events that the “Volhynian” interpretation alleges it depicts by 20 years. The picture itself is badly damaged, crisscrossed with creases and wrinkles (probably from scratches on the original negative or folding of the developed print), which were later overinterpreted to be barbed wire. This technical defect could be considered an apt metaphor for the bizarre fate of the photograph, originally taken to illustrate the personal tragedy of a Romani woman from a village near Radom, but later inextricably incorporated into the national discourse on the Volhynian massacres.
On the night of December 11, 1923, in Antoniówka, a small village near the city of Radom, Marianna Dolińska, a 32-year-old Romani woman, murdered her four children, their ages ranging from six months to seven years, and hung them from a tree.3 She was driven to murder by the dreadful situation she found herself in: her husband had been arrested and her wagon camp dispersed, leaving her with no income and no way of making a living. Unwilling to let them die of hunger, she decided that murdering the children was the only sensible way out of the predicament. The following morning, she turned herself in to the police and confessed, later taking a handful of officers to the scene, which is where the notorious photograph of the four children hanging from the tree was taken during preliminary investigations. Years later, the picture became unofficially known as the “wreath of children.” In the center of the frame stands the tree, with the four small corpses hanging from it. It’s a powerful, striking image: the bodies resemble dolls floating in mid-air, the winter landscape behind them looking vaguely unreal, dreamlike. The picture could easily pass as being staged for artistic purposes. The crime scene was in all likelihood photographed by a police officer from one of the Radom precincts, but we have no way of identifying him by name. Nor are we aware of how many pictures were taken at the time; currently, we know of three frames – similar, but taken from slightly different angles. Dolińska’s case file is missing from the State Archives in Radom, and none of the units involved in the case – including the District State Police Station in Radom (1923–1939), the Criminal Remand Penitentiary (1927–1939), and the Justice of the Peace in Radom (1919–1928)4 – seem to have any idea of its last known whereabouts. This might also mean, however, that the records in those archives are incomplete.
Following her arrest, Dolińska was transferred to the Tworki mental institution for observation, where the staff diagnosed her with delusions, visual hallucinations, mental incompetence, apathy, and depression. In 1926, she was found to be suffering from manic-depressive disorder after what was described as “a typical episode of manic psychosis.”5 The doctors also established that in terms of psychopathology, her actions were an attempt at extended suicide – albeit a failed one. According to the Tworki staff, the woman initially planned to first kill her children and then herself, but only went through with the former. Dolińska died in 1928.
Also in 1928, the Polish Psychiatric Association released the seventh issue of its annual journal, Rocznik Psychiatryczny. This featured an article by Witold Łuniewski, “Psychoza szałowa-posępnicza w kazuistyce sądowo-psychjatrycznej” [Frenzied-Melancholic Psychosis in Criminal Psychology], which outlined the course of the eponymous disorder (nowadays termed bipolar or manic-depressive disorder) among patients referred by judicial authorities to the mental institution he worked at. In the article, Łuniewski also described the case of Marianna Dolińska, and added the photograph of her children. “This horrifying sight has been photographed by our criminal investigators and the picture is currently in our possession,”6 the doctor wrote.
In 1948, 20 years after Łuniewski’s article was published, a similar picture was included in Wiktor Grzywo-Dąbrowski’s Podręcznik medycyny sądowej dla studentów i lekarzy [A Manual of Forensic Medicine for Students and Doctors].7 The photograph in the later publication was slightly different from the one featured in Rocznik Psychiatryczny, and seemingly taken from a different angle. Grzywo-Dąbrowski briefly raised the Dolińska case in his textbook, drawing heavily on Łuniewski’s account in the process. The picture, used to illustrate a subchapter dedicated to homicide by hanging, was removed from subsequent editions of the book.8
The photograph resurfaces
At some point, however, the picture of Dolińska’s dead children began functioning as an illustration of the crimes committed in Volhynia by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in 1943. The Volhynian narrative, however, used the third picture of the series taken that fateful December day, slightly different from the first (used in Rocznik Psychiatryczny) and the second (featured in Podręcznik medycyny sądowej dla studentów i lekarzy). Ada Rutkowska and Dariusz Stola attempted to retrace the journey of the picture and identify instances where it had been used in a framing that suggested the Volhynian context.9 The oldest such instance they found came from a 1993 issue of the Wrocław-based magazine Na Rubieży, published by the Society for the Commemoration of Victims of Ukrainian Nationalists, where Dolińska’s children were described as “Polish children tormented and murdered by a Ukrainian Insurgent Army detachment near the village of Kozowa in the Tarnopol Voivodship in the fall of 1943.”10 Following that first instance, the photograph reappeared in a similar context across a number of magazines, including research journals and popular science titles. Some of the authors who ended up using the picture claimed it was one of many such “wreaths” that the Ukrainians made and later nailed to trees lining an avenue they allegedly came to call the “road to sovereign Ukraine.”11 Later, the photograph was also published by a number of online outlets, in each instance accruing additional details of the massacre it allegedly depicted. It was even featured on the cover of Aleksander Korman’s Ludobójstwo UPA na ludności polskiej [The Genocide of Poles by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army], wherein the author, invoking the Gospel of John, attempted to reveal to his audience the “universal truth”12 behind the events in Volhynia. To that end, he naturally used the photographs, whose peculiar ontology (following not from their genuine, realistic character, but their particular origins) encourages us to acknowledge them as the perfect analogon of reality.13
In July 2003, the municipal authorities in Przemyśl unveiled a monument depicting the children from the photo, but described as victims of the UIA.14 2006 saw the foundation of the Nationwide Committee for Erecting a Memorial to the Victims of OUN-UIA Genocide, whose mission was to secure the construction of a memorial in downtown Warsaw. The committee selected a design submitted by Marian Konieczny (1930–2017) – the sculptor behind the Monument to the Heroes of Warsaw (1964), the statue of Lenin in Nowa Huta (1973), and statues of John Paul II and Father Eugeniusz Makulski in Licheń (1999) – which depicted a five-meter-tall winged tree with children nailed to its trunk, modeled on the picture of the “wreath.” The design met with fierce criticism and was hotly contested in the media; it also prompted Rutkowska and Stola to write their exposé. If it hadn’t been for the attempt to build the monument in Warsaw, it is possible that no one would ever have learned the real history of the picture of Dolińska’s children.
However, the claim that the photograph depicted UIA crimes against the civilian populace would not actually be the first incorrect context in which the photo was used. On July 2, 1941, the picture appeared on the front page of the Nowy Kurjer Warszawski [New Warsaw Courier], a propaganda broadsheet published by the Nazi occupation authorities from 1939 to 1945. Slapped with the headline “This is how the Bolsheviks fight!”15 the piece read:
The photograph you see above was sent in by one of our readers, a veteran of the Polish–Soviet War. In 1919, in a village near Vawkavysk, a detachment of the Polish armed forces made a shocking discovery – the bodies of four children and their mother (not pictured) hanging from a tree. They were the wife and children of the local Polish alderman who fled the Bolsheviks. Unable to catch him, the Soviets exacted brutal, barbaric revenge on his family.16
It ought to be pointed out that both incorrect contexts of the picture were supposed to illustrate “Eastern savagery”: one supported the narrative of the ruthlessness of Soviet troops; the other allegedly corroborated the heinous crimes committed by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
Photography theorist Henry Bond stresses that scholars have yet to devise a satisfactory method of interrogating the practices of crime scene photography; rather than perform a critical analysis, they instead focus on bland clichés.17 Bond later writes that the “crime scene photograph is often characterized as both picturesque/cinematic and shocking/grim. […] What is lacking is any psychological explanation (or exploration) of the reasons for such a paradox.”18 The photograph that came to be widely known as the “wreath of children” thus warrants deeper reflection – examining both its usage in the discourse on the Volhynian massacres as well as what the picture actually reveals and what it keeps hidden.
The relative ubiquity or popularity of the picture in question can also be explained as driven by the need of the public to have some illustration of the Volhynian massacres. On the one hand, the “Volhynian” interpretation frames the photograph as a depiction of utter cruelty: the murder of four small children and the hanging of their corpses from a tree. Actions described as involving “nailing small children around a thick roadside tree to create so-called wreaths”19 were included in a list, compiled by Aleksander Korman, of 363 torture methods that the UIA employed against civilian Poles – the “wreaths” were last on the list, ostensibly to emphasize the savagery of the fact. On the other hand, the photograph features no wounded or torn bodies – the brutality is sufficiently restrained, enough for it to serve as a template for a monument or to be used on a book cover. The situation in the picture may indeed elicit a measure of horror, but the static composition encourages a more deliberate, contemplative reading – although it invokes a truly macabre event, the picture is discreet in form. One of the most frequently articulated reservations regarding atrocity photographs is the problematic assumption that pictures of mutilated bodies or the suggestion of the use of torture could potentially violate the dignity of the victims themselves.20 In this particular respect the picture of Marianna Dolińska’s children fits the role of an icon: it offers a relatively safe representation of savagery.
The phenomenon of the photograph becomes easier to understand when we compare it to other pictures collected in the Ludobójstwo UPA na ludności polskiej album. Some of them depict groups of corpses, but most are blurred, rendering the faces unrecognizable. Others are sharper, but then usually show individual bodies, mostly sprawled out on the ground in a way that makes it hard to determine whether we’re seeing the victim of a crime or an unfortunate accident. Both of these aspects are manifested in the “wreath of children” photograph: not only are the faces of the portrayed victims sharp and clear (and they’re the faces of children, no less), but the image itself enables the viewer to immediately determine the specific crime that produced the scene. The latter transforms it into an unambiguous representation of violence, and as such compels the viewer to ask: “What has been done?,” “What is still being done?,” “What can I do to fix this?”21 Thus, the photograph proved a perfect fit for the perpetrator-oriented discourse on the Volhynian genocide.
As pointed out by Allan Sekula, popular historical narratives often emanate from specific photographs, and tend to mix pedagogy with aesthetics and entertainment.22 The uptake of these narratives is mediated by pictures, which, on the one hand, testify to what “has been there”23 by virtue of their own authority, and, on the other, instill said histories with an aesthetic quality. And reception filtered through aesthetics determines historical interpretation. In the case of the infamous “wreath of children,” the picture’s widespread circulation and adoption were undoubtedly facilitated by its particular aesthetic qualities. As I have pointed out above, Henry Bond argues that crime scene photos are often described as “picturesque/cinematic.”24 Similar impressions have been elicited by photographs of historical events. Sekula asserted that exploring history through photography is rooted in an experience that “characteristically veers between nostalgia, horror, and an overriding sense of the exoticism of the past, its irretrievable otherness for the viewer in the present.”25 The “wreath of children” combines all of these aspects, while still remaining an attractive visual symbol due to its striking composition. This aesthetic appeal, however, becomes problematic insofar as the majority of the picture’s affective thrust derives from its usage of the dead bodies of children as the building material for an act that is fundamentally aesthetic (weaving the eponymous “wreath” around the tree).
The bright lines crisscrossing the picture, usually interpreted to be traces of either scratches on the film negative or marks left from the folding of the developed print, are a key part of the image.26 When the photograph of Dolińska’s children began functioning as an illustration of the murders of Volhynian civilians, the lines were read (or seen) as barbed wire with which the children were tied to the tree. This misinterpretation is particularly interesting; a detail produced by a technical defect rooted in the very materiality of photography was taken as a part of the world portrayed within the picture itself. We might even risk a reading that sees the creases as the Real27 of the photograph: that which emanates from trauma28 and violence, which interrupts the interpretation of the picture. Its conceptual register is established by the composition and its visual layers; the symbolic layer, however, derives from how it connects with the text it is used to illustrate – an article in a psychiatry journal or a book on the Volhynian massacres. The Real is that which returns and invades the picture’s conceptual and symbolic regimes. Given such assumptions, we might speculate as to what is the Real of Polish history, calling for symbolization as an act by savage Ukrainians. Fully aware of the uncertainty of the source, I would nevertheless like to bring up a passage from Adela Głowacka, Dolińska’s distant cousin, discussing the family account of the horrifying event:
This was decades ago. A Romani man was arrested, the husband of that woman. And so she went to the policeman at the station – probably where they arrested him – asking him what she should now do with her children after they left her with no means to live… Without much thinking, the officer blurted: “If you don’t know, why don’t you just hang them”… And so the Romanis said to one another: “She was sick and took his words to heart.” Then she went to the police and confessed to doing just what the officer told her to.29
This particular interpretive frame introduces important additional contexts of racism, power, and exclusion, all of which contribute to Dolińska making the decision to kill her own children. Following this logic, we might come to the conclusion that the police influenced the course of Dolińska’s life not once, but twice: first suggesting (maliciously?) that she hang her children, and later documenting the aftermath of her actions with a camera. Seen from such an angle, the picture in question no longer merely documents suffering – it reprises the original act of violence.
What do the creases in the picture end up obscuring? A number of factors and circumstances that beg to be overlooked: poverty, social inequality, and the racism of state authorities – essentially, everything that does not fit with the idealized vision of inter-war Poland; instead, this perfect vision is replaced by Eastern barbarity and savagery.30 The question remains: what actually led to the creases being misinterpreted as barbed wire? This particular shift could have been prompted by the spread of specific visual clichés. Barbed wire is a widespread trope in the illustration of Poland’s 20th-century history. It is a remnant, a visual trace of Auschwitz that has imprinted itself in the popular consciousness so deeply31 that when dead bodies are crisscrossed with thin lines, the lines are automatically read as barbed wire.
As Jaciek Leociak argued in his study of damaged Holocaust photographs, these defects and flaws are usually incidental, random, and bear no relation to the world portrayed in the frame. Simultaneously, however, the imperfections become an integral part of the photographs themselves, an aesthetic aspect that shapes their subsequent interpretation:
The corruption of the image redirects the attention of the audience toward the very medium carrying the image, prompts the shifting of attention away from the world portrayed in the picture toward the material substrate that makes it possible for that world to appear before the audience’s eyes. The defect pulls to the surface that which usually remains hidden, omitted, ignored: the material surface of the photographic image, susceptible to mechanical intervention, and the chemical metamorphoses undergone by the negative.32
The “wreath of children” picture, however, presents us with an inversion of the situation described above – the creases have been interpreted not as the product of mechanical damage to the image, but as an inherent element of the picture itself, and the most horrifying, shocking one at that. Rather than simply refocus the audience on the materiality of the photograph and the specific context of its creation, this prompts a deeply affective reaction which, in turn, binds the audience closely to the world portrayed in the picture, making it much more difficult to remain detached or to doubt the photograph, its context, and its description.
Henry Bond has suggested splitting crime scene photos into those taken by law enforcement officers or forensic specialists and those taken by photojournalists. The key difference between the two is that the latter “propagate myth or cliché,”33 because the images they produce are symbolic and conventional in nature. This follows their purpose: to provide a good (clear) illustration for a written piece. The forensic photographer, on the other hand, “works beyond myth”34 – striving not only to create a clear, consistent narrative, but also to capture everything that might prove pertinent to the investigation. It would be hard, however, to apply this particular taxonomy to forensic photography from the Second Polish Republic. Służba śledcza [Investigative Service], a 1920 handbook for police officers, mentioned the “highly valuable”35 role that photography played in law enforcement, but clearly implied that it was a tool few had access to. The authors suggested: “If an investigation requires something to be photographed urgently, and the relevant station lacks an amateur photographer on staff, a professional should be hired.”36 This implies that the picture of Marianna Dolińska’s children was taken either by an amateur or a professional photographer, the latter by definition operating within conventional methods of representation. Regardless, the picture itself precedes the dichotomous partition of photography into “raw,” unprocessed material taken for police purposes, and “narrative” imagery serving to illustrate press pieces – and as such fuses these two aspects.
Barbie Zelizer argues that the first stage of a photograph’s transition from a record of a single event into a symbol involves widespread dissemination of the picture in question without additional information that would allow prospective recipients to identify specific persons and locations, leading the image to become a representation of more general phenomena.37 Holocaust photographs usually carried very vague descriptions: grave, prisoner, shower room. As time passed, some of the more iconic photographs accrued new, distinctive titles, not necessarily similar to those given by their creators.38 The informal label attributed to the Dolińska picture is similarly bewildering. It derives from one of the most basic connotations of the shape made by the bodies nailed to the tree. The word “wreath” itself carries more than just one meaning. According to Zygmunt Gloger’s definition, a wreath is a “circular arrangement of flowers or herbs woven together”39 and a folk symbol of “immaculate virginity.”40 Wreaths were traditionally worn by maidens until marriage, when their braid was cut off and the wreath replaced by a bonnet – hence the phrase “lose one’s wreath,” a slang term for losing one’s virginity. Wreaths were also an important part of agricultural celebrations (such as harvest festivals) and Saint John’s Eve. Thus, a “wreath of children” is highly disturbing wordplay: children killed by their mother are associated here with virginity and youthful innocence.41
In Witold Łuniewski’s research piece, the first instance of the photograph’s wider publication, the scholar asserted that when women diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder committed a crime, they usually resorted to infanticide.42 That diagnosis applied to Marianna Dolińska, but also to 45-year-old “A. Sz.,” who first charged at her three adult children with an axe and then tried to commit suicide by jumping down a well.43 In a later section of the article, dedicated to conditions similar to manic-depressive disorder, Łuniewski discusses other cases of criminal patients suffering from depressive forms of schizophrenia. All three women mentioned in the article were guilty of infanticide: “One slashed the throat of her child daughter, the other […] threw her 18-month-old down a well, the third buried her newborn alive after sequestering herself in the forest to give birth.”44 Curiously, the only man guilty of infanticide described in Łuniewski’s article was Jewish: “During a depressive episode, the man, a merchant by trade and a follower of the Mosaic religion, killed his infant in its crib using an axe.”45 Assuming that infanticide is generally considered a typically “female” crime, the presence of a Jewish man in the group could be explained by the feminization of Jewish men prevalent in pre-war European culture.46
We might risk a semiotic interpretation, in which the “wreath of children” is an image composed of two separate signs: the creases and the wreath. The creases are a product of the widespread denial of the poverty and racism that characterized Poland in the inter-war period. These undesirable features were instead replaced by the notion of “Eastern savagery,” fused in the visual sphere with typical tropes associated with wartime and occupation (barbed wire). The other sign is the wreath – the word itself associated with girlish innocence and maidenhood, which, in the case of the notorious photograph in question, was used to express its deeply tabooed antithesis: children killed by their mother.47 The creases represent the political and social aspect of the Dolińska story, whereas the wreath represents the private. The link between those two signs is also based on contradiction: the creases are sharp, bristly, divisive, while the wreath evokes images of harmony and peace. Thus, the Dolińska photograph is composed of contradictory signs, both of which are also in and of themselves a blend of contradictions.
The “wreath” is a vernacular photograph; taken at the scene of a crime and probably devoid of any artistic ambition, it was subsequently stripped of its initial function.48 Of particular interest are the various uses of the Antoniówka pictures recorded since their capture. Even before their “Volhynian” interpretation, the pictures were used first as a record of a specific woman’s crime (crime scene photograph), and later as an illustration of mental illness (Rocznik Psychiatryczny and the Grzywo-Dąbrowski textbook). The latter was a rather uncommon method of picturing insanity. In the 1920s, most psychiatric literature published in Poland relied on portraits of patients in order to illustrate their disorders,49 while the Antoniówka photographs documented the aftermath of a particular episode. This breach seemingly corroborates the proposition that they were highly appealing in visual terms, regardless of the meanings assigned to them. Finally, the photographs began to function as a symbol of UIA savagery – in this particular instance, the real perpetrator proved unimportant as the image began circulating as a symbol of events larger than a single murder. As a result, the “wreath of children” was repeatedly seized on by a number of discourses and registers: from policing to healthcare, from tabloid sensationalism to history and art.50 It is possible that these seizures were further facilitated by the most widely used picture’s “damaged” nature – and the picture is “damaged” on a couple of different levels. On the one hand, this stems from its materiality – the scratches on the negative or print which shaped the photograph’s reception and interpretation (the default interpretation prior to the publication of Rutkowska and Stola’s study). On the other hand, its damaged character follows from what the creases and scratches obscure: oppression, poverty, racism, and female violence. The history of the “wreath of children” is the history of collective denial, denial of what is hard to accept about Polish history, and the outward projection of these undesirable elements onto an “other” – in this case, a Ukrainian nationalist.51
1 Cf. Barbie Zelizer, Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory Through the Camera’s Eye (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1.
2 Frédéric Rousseau, Żydowskie dziecko z Warszawy. Historia pewnej fotografii, trans. Tomasz Swoboda (Gdańsk: słowo/obraz terytoria, 2012), 154.
3 Biographical data has been sourced primarily from Piotr Głuchowski and Marcin Kowalski, “Podobno była piękna,” Duży Format, supplement to Gazeta Wyborcza, July 17, 2007 (accessed February 1, 2019).
4 Private correspondence with the State Archives in Radom.
5Witold Łuniewski, “Psychoza szałowa-posępnicza w kazuistyce sądowo-psychjatrycznej,” Rocznik Psychiatryczny no. 7 (1928), 24.
6 Ibid., 12.
7 Wiktor Grzywo-Dąbrowski, Podręcznik medycyny sądowej dla studentów medycyny i lekarzy (Warsaw: Państwowy Zakład Wydawnictw Lekarskich, 1948), 407.
8 See: Wiktor Grzywo-Dąbrowski, Podręcznik medycyny sądowej dla studentów medycyny i lekarzy, 2nd ed., revised and updated (Warsaw: Państwowy Zakład Wydawnictw Lekarskich, 1958).
9 Ada Rutkowska and Dariusz Stola, “Fałszywy pomnik, prawdziwe zbrodnie,” Plus Minus, supplement to Rzeczpospolitej, May 19–20, 2007, 15. The authors of the article were the first to publicly acknowledge that the photograph does not actually depict victims of the Volhynian massacres.
11 Aleksander Korman, Stosunek UPA do Polaków na ziemiach południowo-wschodnich II Rzeczypospolitej (Wrocław: Nortom, 2002), 133–134.
12 Aleksander Korman, Ludobójstwo UPA na ludności polskiej (Wrocław: Nortom, 2003), 6.
13 André Bazin, “Ontology of the Photographic Image,” trans. Hugh Gray, Film Quarterly vol. 13, no. 4 (1960), 4–9.
14 Głuchowski and Kowalski, “Podobno była piękna.”
15 “Tak walczą bolszewicy,” Nowy Kurier Warszawski, July 2, 1941, 1.
17 Henry Bond, “Hard Evidence,” in: Lacan at the Scene (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2012), 9.
18 Ibid., 10.
19 Korman, Stosunek UPA do Polaków, 113.
20 Carolyn J. Dean, “Atrocity Photographs, Dignity, and Human Vulnerability,” Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development vol. 6, no. 2 (2015), 242.
21 Peggy Phelan, “Atrocity and Action: The Performative Force of the Abu Ghraib Photographs,” in: Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis, eds. Geoffrey Batchen, Mick Gidley, Nancy K. Miller, and Jay Prosser (London: Reaktion Books, 2012), 51.
22 Allan Sekula, “Photography Between Labour and Capital,” in: Mining Photographs and Other Pictures 1948–1968, eds. Benjamin H. D. Buchloh and Robert Wilkie (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1983), 198.
23 Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1986), 76.
24 Bond, “Hard Evidence,” 10.
25 Sekula, “Photography Between Labour and Capital,” 199.
26 Rutkowska and Stola, “Fałszywy pomnik, prawdziwe zbrodnie.”
27 See: Jacques Lacan, “The Symbolic, the Imaginary, and the Real,” in: On the Names-of-the-Father, trans. Bruce Fink (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013).
28 Herein, I use the word “trauma” in the psychological sense, but in connection to its original meaning denoting physical injury.
30 See: Andrzej Mencwel, Wyobraźnia antropologiczna (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, 2006), 109–235.
31 See: Agnieszka Pajączkowska, “Zdjęcie,” in: Ślady Holokaustu w imaginarium kultury polskiej, eds. Justyna Kowalska-Leder, Paweł Dobrosielski, Iwona Kurz, and Małgorzata Szpakowska (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, 2017), 473–506.
32 Jacek Leociak, “Okaleczone obrazy. Uszkodzone fotografie (z) Zagłady jako wyzwanie interpretacyjne,” in: Zagłada. Współczesne problemy rozumienia i przedstawiania, eds. Przemysław Czapliński and Ewa Domańska (Poznań: Poznańskie Studia Polonistyczne, 2009), 285.
33 Bond, “Hard Evidence,” 11
35 Służba śledcza. Podręcznik dla użytku policji państwowej (Warsaw: Skład główny księgarni F. Hoesicka, 1920), 59.
36 Ibid., 60.
37 Zelizer, Remembering to Forget, 14.
38 E.g. the most important photo from Abu Ghraib functions under the informal name Gilligan on a Box. See: Phelan, Atrocity and Action, 58.
39 Zygmunt Gloger, Encyklopedia staropolska ilustrowana vol. 4 (Warsaw: Druk P. Laskauera i S-ki, 1903), 430.
41 The ambiguity of the “wreath” resembles the Derridian hymen, the undecidable, which can mean both virginity and marriage, thus blending two radically opposing notions. To quote Derrida, the hymen “is neither confusion nor distinction, neither identity nor difference, neither consummation nor virginity, neither the veil nor the unveiling, neither the inside nor the outside.” Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), lxxii.
42 Here, I use the term “infanticide” after Łuniewski. Currently, the term is only applied to the murder of newborns by their mothers immediately after the birth. See: Krystyna Marzec-Holka, Dzieciobójstwo. przestępstwo uprzywilejowane czy zbrodnia (Bydgoszcz: Wydawnictwo Akademii Bydgoskiej, 2004).
43 Łuniewski, “Psychoza szałowa-posępnicza,” 22.
44 Ibid., 36.
46 Bożena Keff, Antysemityzm. Niezamknięta historia (Warsaw: Czarna Owca, 2013), 96, 122.
47 See: Heather Leigh Stangle, “Murderous Madonna: Femininity, Violence, and the Myth of Postpartum Mental Disorder in Cases of Maternal Infanticide and Filicide,” William & Mary Law Review vol. 50, no. 2 (2008), 700–734.
48 Clément Chéroux, Wernakularne. Eseje z historii fotografii, trans. Tomasz Swoboda (Warsaw: Fundacja Archeologia Fotografii, 2014), 12.
49 These are the results of my archival research efforts, particularly in the archives of Rocznik Psychiatryczny and similar publications. On the matter of portraying the mentally ill, see: Georges Didi-Huberman, Invention of Hysteria: Charcot and the Photographic Iconography of the Salpêtrière, trans. Alisa Hartz (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003).
50 The photograph in question also appears in Katarzyna Szyngiera and Mirosław Wlekły’s play Сварка (Swarka), produced in 2015 and staged at the Teatr Polski in Bydgoszcz.
51 It ought to be added that this strategy of denial and evasion does not end with the exposure of the photograph’s true history. In articles published following the exposé, emphasis was put primarily on Dolińska’s mental illness and how it prompted her to kill her children. Acknowledging her decision as rational is impossible, even though she ultimately had to choose between letting the children die of hunger and hanging them. This approach to mental illness is particularly prominent in “Podobno była piękna,” the piece Piotr Głuchowski and Marcin Kowalski wrote for Duży Format. The text emphatically romanticizes Dolińska’s suffering: the authors compare the woman to the mythical Medea, gush over her looks, going so far as to admiringly discuss the director of the Tworki mental hospital, the cut of his suit, and even the interior design of his office. When describing the efforts of the Eastern Borderlands people to build a monument to the victims, the journalists maintain a somewhat ironic distance, but their descriptions of the hospital and its patients are emotional, almost pretentious. The psychiatric diagnosis precludes acknowledging the patient’s decision as rational. As a result, the violence experienced by Marianna Dolińska at the hands of the police and her neighbors is pushed further into the background.
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