In 1987 Fabio Ponzio decided to embark on a photographic odyssey in search of Eastern Europe. When he arrived in Poland the country was on the verge of collapse. There was little food in the shops and the queues to buy bread were immense. In Ceausescu’s Romania, people’s lives were reduced to a succession of dark days; the Securitate wielded absolute control and used informants, bribery and violence to beat any instinct for freedom out of individuals. In the same period, in Yugoslavia, the beginnings of what was to become the catastrophe of successive years were being laid out, while the West looked on in supreme indifference.
In the autumn of 1989, everything changed. The various regimes of the communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe began to collapse in Budapest, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, Sofia and Bucharest in a domino effect that continued in Albania and ended two years later in the Soviet Union. Ponzio continued his travels across an immense territory with a Leica, three Nikons and 100 rolls of film, in search of the people of the East, documenting the old energy that had been fortified through pain and sacrifice, now joined by a new energy, full of hope.
Year after year, Ponzio returned to capture the many faces and stark differences of the other Europe, in search of the elements that make up the shared destiny of the peoples of Eastern Europe. Collected here are his stunning portraits of their traditions and faith, humility and courage, vulnerability and survival, introduced by Herta Müller, the novelist, poet, essayist and recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature.