When I lived in the USA, I met Andrzej Styka (1922–2007), a descendant of a well-known Polish family of painters. As the last of the family he decided to write down memories that I had the pleasure to translate.
They contain unique family archives never published before – the diaries of grandfather Jan Styka (1858-1925) – a co-creator of Panorama Racławicka painting, Golgotha painting, a series of paintings for Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis; as well as memories of his mother and father – Adam Styka (1890-1959) well-known painter, whose works were inspired by views from expeditions to Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Egypt and the Wild West. In the album there are also letters of an author’s uncle – Tadeusz (1889-1954) – who became a famous portrait artist of renowned figures of the first half of the 20th century (including Pola Negri, Sarah Delano Roosevelt, Ignacy Paderewski, or Enrica Caruso). The book also includes copies of paintings, diplomas, exhibition reviews and press articles of past decades that had not been seen before. The album is bilingual (Polish-English). Below is a fragment of Jan Styka’s diary from the early 20th century in which he writes about his motives of writing a journal:
…In our times everything goes by so fast, so quickly does it sink into the sea of oblivion that what is left is just a feeling of longing for this one beautiful moment or two that keeps our soul entranced for the rest of our life.
I do not mean to write here the biography arranged by a chronological order, let it be rather a bundle of pages torn out of life, each of them representing a single image, single thought, or a single program. Maybe one day somebody’s hand will reach out for these pages and skillfully put them together so they will create a unified form – I do not know, perhaps… Even if these here were to be dried flowers, let them be the flowers picked up by a lover’s hand and put to the album, not the leaves that fall down and vanish without a trace, being devoured by the soil. Let them be more like a seed corn, though taken by the wind but able to give birth to new flowers and bear fruit, having in its womb this creative, invisible yet fertile spark. Maybe some of those past moments will serve some other soul to reach an idea that may transform into another, more splendid one…