Given the rapidly changing security environment in Europe, we have focused on eight advocacy clauses that seek to increase Western institutional cohesion and resilience in Central and Eastern Europe and in the collective West as a whole:
1. Promoting a better defined, clearer, and more urgent path for Ukraine’s membership in NATO.
2. Striving towards a paradigm shift in defence posture of the Western community.
3. Reviving CEE regional and cross-regional cooperation via formats such as Visegrad Four, Bucharest Nine, the Weimar Triangle, and the Lublin Triangle.
4. Strengthening EU’s foreign policy by creating a coherent European policy on China.
5. Strengthening transatlantic cooperation for energy security and supplies resilience.
6. Driving Ukraine’s energy integration with Europe.
7. Analysing influence operations of adversarial states against CEE and creating common standard capabilities for the region.
8. Strengthening CEE cyber resilience by establishing an organisation that uses telemetry on cyber operations against Ukrainian infrastructure.
There was a moment in my life when I felt street and landscape photography were beginning to give me less joy than usual. It was a good experience going to places I knew but wanted to re-explore and to places I had never been to. Yet I somehow felt it was not as rewarding as working with another person. I had, of course, taken some pictures of my family members and friends but it was not as professional (if I can even use this word as an amateur) as meeting with a stranger and trying to picture them without feeling any deeper, blood- or time-related bond. In other words, I lacked the feeling of being a craftsman/artist behind the camera, acting through it and creating a deliberate barrier between me and the photographed. A barrier that was essential to achieve effects I would never be able to achieve with a relative or a close friend of mine on the other side of it.
It took me a while to gather courage and search for an opportunity. I was afraid (and still am) of my insufficient skills, technical shortcomings and a lack of understanding between me and the model. In a way, portraying someone else makes one feel more exposed as if one were in the spotlight, not the other way around. I do not think I managed to discard these fears but at least I kept them at bay.
The occasion that came my was was a couple living and studying in the Polish city of Toruń. Gosia and Kuba were enthusiastic and eager to cooperate. It helped that Gosia had modelling experience which clearly showed during the session. Kuba, on the other hand, turned out to be a natural companion of Gosia although he was initially meant to be an assistance and perhaps someone whose task was to make sure I was someone they could trust.
That was another aspect of the whole project I was mindful of. Since it is usually easier to find a female model and the photographers are still predominantly male, it is essential to create an atmosphere of safety and comfort, especially when being photographed by someone who is unable to present any significant portrait portfolio or any other credentials. In this sense, I felt probably as at ease as Gosia, being accompanied by her boyfriend and working in a publicly accessible place. If you, by the way, happen to be in Toruń and are on the lookout for stylish interiors, check out Klubokawiarnia PERS. I can highly recommend them as they were helpful and enthusiastic about my project.
How did the photos turn out? I would like to say they are great but it is not up to me to judge. For once, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It felt almost instantly rewarding and mobilising. I was satisfied with my choice of lenses for the digital part of the session. Not only did I use autofocus lenses, but also some manual focus one. I am particularly fond of the Voigtländer Nokton SE 50mm f/1.2. It is a was, optically very good lens that is capable of delivering outstanding results in dim light.
The photos I uploaded here are only digital. I also used my Contax 167MT but have still not found the time to develop the film. I guess I will share them in a separate post.
‘Since Kaliningrad Oblast is geographically separated from Russia, its situation is complex and completely different from other regions. Especially now [that the ferry connection is responsible for supplying the region] it becomes clear that Kaliningrad will be completely dependent on Saint Petersburg.’
Lithuanian IQ magazine interviewed me about the state of affairs in Kaliningrad Oblast. The title – A military place and nothing more (Karinis miestelis ir nieko daugiau) – is somewhat provocative but gives a good feeling of what the region has become in the last decade.
In Casimir Pulaski Foundation’s latest policy paper, I argue that Kaliningrad Oblast faces the biggest challenges ever since the disintegration of the Soviet Union and that these challenges are impossible to overcome under the current circumstances.
It happened so not only because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also because of the events that had led up to it: growing centralisation, ignoring the semi-exclave’s natural needs related to trade and cross-border cooperation, as well as its militarisation.
The Oblast and its inhabitants is have been cut off from main sources of economic growth. Russia will not be able to provide effective and efficient supply lines to make up for it as the Kremlin has different priorities.
As a result, Kaliningrad Oblast has become a besieged fortress that is drifting further away both from Moscow and the West. In the eyes of Russian authorities, it only exists to threaten.