Sofia Palma
Polish Allotment Gardens (The Działka Project)

PROFESSOR: Jacek Szewczyk, Małgorzata Warlikowska
REVIEWER: Przemysław Pintal

My grandfather is a stubborn man.
For years he insisted that nothing could grow around our little summer cottage that was right in front of the Atlantic ocean, and so for years our backyard was only an ugly patch of sand, with some strange weeds crawling upon it.
Nevermind that our neighbors had beautiful lush gardens, full of flowers and fresh vegetables, apparently the exact location of our house was prone to strong winds and extreme drought which obviously made it impossible to cultivate.
It wasn't until I had moved to Poland that he had a change of heart and started to care for the land. Slowly that patch of sand grew to become a beautiful garden, where wonderful things like miniature watermelons, sweet tomatoes, and sunflowers would sprout. Every visit to Portugal wasn't complete until my grandfather had shown me all the new plants or strange constructions he had invented, like a funny looking compost bin that he named "the pig" (" o porco", in Portuguese) and had to be fed every so often with all our food waste.

Perhaps it was his sudden interest in agriculture that somehow made me notice the little garden plots that populate the cities in Poland and inspire what is now a 3-year long project or perhaps it was simply dumb luck that made me walk trough one of those allotments gates and realize the great storytelling potential of such places.

Regardless of the reason why it all started, the research project on Polish allotment gardens had a tremendous impact on my acculturation process and on how I as a foreigner understand Polish culture.
The garden plots represent not only an important aspect of the Polish communist past but also a very characteristic (sometimes even eccentric) reflection of individuals, each garden plot somehow resembling their owner's personality.