“The Secret of the Catkin Family” is a visual fairy tale, illustrated by Małgorzata Drohomirecka, a painter and graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, and written by Izabela Morska, a writer whose literary career spans over last three decades of the painful albeit purposeful reconstruction of democratic societies in Eastern Europe.
It is a story about community and identity, neighborhood and family, school and education in its multifarious forms, and about how important it is to feel safe within all these areas, both for children and adults. About the fact that although we can define our own boundaries in seclusion, we become ourselves only in relationships with others.
It is a fairy tale that allows adults to experience again how it is to be a child in a society identified by fixed sets of rules and ideals, how important the dilemmas of childhood are, and how the affairs of adults can obscure the carefree adolescence.
It encourages us to see the value of tradition as a space that we inherit and recognize as our own and the process that we are constantly expanding and reviving, or even create our own places of refuge and personal traditions reflecting our community values.
It shows how important our relationships with people and animals are for us, or to rephrase it, with human and nonhuman animals. It is a fairy tale because it optimistically assumes that the desire to communicate, while driving us towards each other, suffices to create a common language.
“The Secret of the Catkin Family” is the story of an extraordinary family that has just moved into a suburban area where everyone knows each other. So they arouse curiosity. But the conflict between provinciality and modernity is not straightforward, the divisions are not obvious. The essence of the fairy tale is modernity and history at the same time, because it is histories, especially stories of survival, that shape our collective subconscious.
An illustrated tale or a visual narrative is not a new genre. It became popular with the emergence of child reader at the end of the nineteenth century. Its peak achievements are, of course, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Adventures of Peter the Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, or the seductive and mysterious stories by Wanda Gág.
Our fairy tale does not target any particular age group. Perhaps it is a fairy tale for adults, as children don’t particularly need its message. Children do not exclude their peers until adults have taught them; they don’t harass others until they gain or sense permission from adults. So it is the adults who might want to educate themselves.
It takes a village to post a tale on the net! This endeavor results from a joint effort of several talented people, among them:
Zuza Drohomirecka – website design/tale: typesetting and layout
Pola Piksa - reader, PL
Jodi Greig - reader, EN
Julian Wieczorek – video editing