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Somewhere to stay

‘Somewhere to Stay’ is a new work of art by Diana Forster. It is co-commissioned by the Visualising War and Peace project and the IWM 14-18 NOW Legacy Fund, a national programme of 22 artist commissions inspired by the heritage of conflict and created in partnership with Imperial War Museums and 14-18 NOW, the official UK arts programme for the First World War centenary.

Our aim is to prompt fresh reflection on how we visualise the immediate rupture and follow-on challenges of forced migration, via one family’s story which began during the Second World War.

In 1940, when she was 16 years old, Forster’s mother – Anna Sokulska Forster – was deported from her family home in eastern Poland (now Ukraine) and transported to a Soviet labour camp in Arkhangelsk. So began a long journey of survival and ongoing displacement that would see her travel thousands of miles, from country to country, in search of shelter and a new place to call home.

Forster has spent years researching what her mother and thousands of others went through during this mass displacement – a forced migration which has unsettling resonances with more recent deportations of Ukrainian citizens to Russia, since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. She has created a series of ten laser-cut aluminium panels to help us visualise their journey and its many staging posts. Her aim is to communicate the unimaginably shocking rupture between a settled, normal life and a terrifying future, decided by people who did not care whether the deportees lived or died.

You can explore the story behind each of Forster’s panels by clicking on the images below, and you can hear Diana explaining the family history behind her installation in this podcast. We have also created a video to showcase the art and explain the project in more detail. Forster’s work will be exhibited in both outdoor and indoor settings, in Kirkcaldy and St Andrews, with a series schools workshops and public events scheduled alongside. You can find out details of our in-person activities on our Exhibitions page; and you can find out more about the history and long-lasting legacies of this historic forced migration via the archival materials we have curated in ‘Such a long journey‘. This virtual exhibition space contains photographs, oral testimony and more artwork by Forster, bringing these refugees’ long journey to life.

For a flavour of the exhibition and some visitor responses, please see the video at the bottom of this page.