Stiftung Brandenburgische Gedenkstätten Mahn‑ und Gedenkstätte Ravensbrück

The artist Zofia Pociłowska

Looking at the life and work of Zofia Pociłowska, it soon becomes clear that it is not nearly enough to focus on just one aspect of her being. There is Pociłowska the artist, the concentration camp survivor, the resistance fighter, the mother of four daughters—and none of these aspects can be ignored when considering her extensive oeuvre, not least because Pociłowska herself managed to unite them all in her work in an extraordinary way. The exhibition strives to do justice to this multi-dimensionality. It covers works from various creative periods, starting with the miniatures made in Ravensbrück and moving through her sculptural engagement with the war, all the way to the sculptures of the 1970s and 1980s. The exhibition also includes some poems penned by Zofia Pociłowska. (The poems and photographs of the miniatures will be on display from August 2021 in the part of the exhibition located in the former textile factory.)

Zofia Pociłowska was born in 1920 in Kharkiv in what is now Ukraine. She grew up in Warsaw, where she graduated from a secondary school for girls in 1938 and then began a degree in Polish Studies. When the war broke out in 1939, she interrupted her studies and joined a resistance group, for which she worked as a courier. Her activities for the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej) led to her arrest by the Gestapo in 1941. She was detained first in Pawiak Prison (Warsaw) and the prison known as Pod Zegarem(Lublin), then sentenced to death and deported to the Ravensbrück women’s concentration camp. She remained in Ravensbrück until the camp was liberated in 1945. After returning to Warsaw, Zofia Pociłowska began studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts, where she turned the artistic activity she had started in Ravensbrück into an artistic career. She once explained how this artistic activity was relevant both in the camp and to her later work: ‘In the Ravensbrück camp, a place where pain and suffering could kill everything human, my passion for art was born—a search for the meaning and value of life in sculpture.’ This search—this engagement with her experiences in the camp, on the one hand, and with the everyday difficulties she faced as a freelance artist and mother in Poland, on the other—shapes her work and forms of expression. It is precisely this ambivalence that makes Zofia Pociłowska’s works, in all their diversity, an extraordinary testament to an eventful life. Zofia Pociłowska died in the spring of 2019.

Teresa Mack, Art History and Gender Studies student