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The White House
Excerpt from a letter to Barack Obama, president of the USA.
“Dear Mr. President of the United States of America Barack Obama, We are students of a village school in Ukraine. Please, accept our sincerest congratulations on your election for the president of the USA. Our school is located in the village of Czernomin in the Vinnytsia Oblast. The school building comes from early 19th century. Its design is based on that of the White House in the USA. (…) We too have a school president, who has his own school ministry. We need substantial funds to restore our White House to its former beauty. Mr. President, we would like to ask you to help us renovate our monument. Your help will strengthen the relationships between our great nations: the American and the Ukrainian people. And our school will become a bridge of friendship between the children of both countries….
Yours Sincerely, Students of the Czernomin school complex”
It is the third time that the children of Czernomin are trying to save their school building this way. The two predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, were not able to help. Clinton did not reply at all, and Bush maintained that the school is located within the territory of Ukraine, so America cannot get financially involved.
The Czernomin White House, or “the twenty-dollar bill palace” as the locals call it, was built nearly 20 years after its American counterpart. It was built for a Polish man of wealth, Mikołaj Czarnomski. He came to his riches thanks to a love affair with countess Zofia Potocka, for whom he worked as a treasurer. He stole money from his mistress until the truth came to light, and the romance came to an end. Czarnomski used the money he had stolen to build the palace, which was designed by the Italian architect Francesco Buffo.
The palace used to be a vibrant place. Mikołaj used to organize sumptuous balls attended by distinguished guests. In 1918 the idyll came to an end. The building was taken over by the Bolsheviks and turned into a proletarians’ home. In the years that followed the Czernomin White House was a German prison during World War II, and then an orphanage. Today it houses a school with nearly 180 students.
Music by the children from Czernomin school.
Michal Luczak was born in 1983 in Silesia, a region of southern Poland. In 2002 he studyied at the Institute of Creative Photography, Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic. At the same time he studied Spanish at the Silesian University in Katowice, Poland, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree. In 2010, he graduated from the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava (M.A.).
He deals with documentary photography, producing long-term projects, such as Nikisz, presented at the Fotofestiwal in Łódź in 2007. His photo essay, The White House, was presented at 2009 edition of the Photomonth in Kraków and awarded with Gradn Prize in the Mio Photo Award in Japan. Since 2008 he has lived in Warsaw, where he works as a freelance photographer for Przekrój Magazine, among others. He has also published in Tygodnik Powszechny, Pozytyw and Private Magazine. He also works with the IMAGO MUNDI Foundation.
In 2009, he was awarded the Alexandra Boulat Scholarship for the Toscana Photographic Workshop, where he participated in a workshop with Anders Petersen. His latest project, Young Miners (a working title), was awarded an honorable mention in the 2009 Magnum Expression Award.