Michał Iwanowski told Euronews his 105-day walk to Poland helped him “feel much more positive about people.”
When Polish-born photographer Michał Iwanowski saw the message “Go home Polish” written on a wall in the Welsh capital in 2008, it made him question where his home was.
Years later, as questions over migration and identity rose with the Brexit referendum, he says he felt the time was right to address it.
“The only way for me to find out where home was for me was to walk from my home in Cardiff where I have lived for 17 years, to the home of my birth in Poland, and to ask people along the way: ‘Where is it? Where is home? What does it mean if I tell you to go home?’” he told Euronews.
In late April, Iwanowski set off on the 1,200-mile (1,900 km) journey to Poland, which took him through England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic.
Carrying a bag weighing 16 kilograms, he walked for around 10 hours a day, staying at Airbnbs or camping along the route.
He documented his experiences on Instagram, sharing photos that included self portraits and re-enactments of stories he heard on his travels.
At the beginning of the 105-day journey, Iwanowski said he was “expecting a lot of confrontation and political talk”, but none of his concerns were realised.
“They were really, really kind,” he recalled.
“It seems as individuals we understand home on a much more emotional level…safety, comfort and inclusion are the factors that make us recognise a place at home.”
As he’d hoped, the journey, funded by the Arts Council of Wales, helped Iwanowski himself to discover what home meant to him.
“I don’t recognise the smaller-scale, administrative definition of home. I find myself in the more global or universal scale — I belong to a landscape before I belong to a country,” he explained.
“I set out with a very cynical attitude, thinking that people suck because that’s what you read in the media, there’s a lot of negativity… but I didn’t meet a single person who fulfilled these expectations.
“I feel much more positive about people.”