The Palka Diaries

Lead Author:

Adrian Palka




Unit of Assessment

33: Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies

Output Category:

I - Performance

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The Palka Diaries (performance project)

Palka Diaries is a multi-modal performance project documented at


Summary Statement (300 words)

The Palka Diaries Project is a multi-output enquiry in to the artistic representation of post-memory. It comprises web documentation of an artistic-research field trip to Siberia, and the resulting installation, “Bark and Butterflies” and the short film “Exile to Leeds 6”. The trip followed the train journey narrated in an inherited wartime diary in which the PI’s grandfather and father describe their deportation from Eastern Poland to the Gulag in 1941. 

“Post Memory” as defined by Marianne Hirsch (2012), “describes the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images and behaviours among which they grew up.”  

Accordingly, this project examines the specific creative strategies to engage with intergenerational trauma and the overpowering family memories of wartime suffering in the second generation.

The questions this project set out to answer are:  
  1. What methods can be used to give expression to inherited memory? 
  2. How can inherited archival materials perform a role in this process? 
  3. How is the relationship between second generation artist and first generation survivor articulated in this process? 

This project involved documenting the journey to Siberia, gathering impressions, materials, sounds and images for later performance/installation work. I immersed myself as artist and PI in both the historic journey of memory, as well as our actual journey in the present. To do this we made performance gestures enroute principally in the train compartment, with readings from the diary, projections of the diary text and portraits of grandfather and father and recorded diary readings in Polish. These interventions which went on over 6 days  took on a phantasmagoric quality, merging past and present, living with dead and created epiphanous connections between family stories and lived reality. The resulting art works, give expression to these experiences and have been shown in the UK, Poland and Germany.


Contextual Information

Community Funding

Heritage Lottery Fund –  All our Stories Fund £10k

Research Funding

Coventry University – (School of Art and Design Research Funding) – £5k

Research Team
Portable Equipment
Itinerary (identical to diary)

6 days train travel Lviv-Kharkiv-Kuznetsk- Petropavlovsk-Omsk-Novosibirsk-Bijsk -Novoiushino

Family Archival Materials
Public Outputs
Exhibitions: Bark and Butterflies

Hessische Nachricht Agentur (Germany) Intention von Adrian Palka, der auch Dozent in Coventry ist, war es, in jene Landschaft einzudringen, die für ihn familiäre Mythen birgt. Das Ergebnis heißt „Bark and Butterflies“: Eine Hütte, in der ein Koffer mit Birkenborken liegt, dazu ist ein Prosagedicht des Vaters auf Englisch und Polnisch zu hören.

Diese wunderbar melancholische, multimediale Installation schafft es, innere Bilder der Heimkehr entstehen zu lassen.


the intention of Adrian Palka, (lecturer at Coventry) is to force his way into landscapes which contain family myths. The result is called “Bark abd Butterflies” in which a suitcase containing shards of birch bark accompanied by a prose poem recited in English and Polish. This wonderful melancholic installation succeeds in stimulating inner image of homecoming in the spectator.

Exhibition and film – ‘Exile to Leeds 6’/Bark and Butterflies:
Exhibition and public lecture:

The Forum, Norwich Library, November 2018.


Conference Papers
Header Photo Credits