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Exhibition of art by Boris Fijalkowski

01st August 2012

Drawings and paintings by artist and architect Boris Fijalkowski, whose work has already appeared in several successful books on Guildford were shown in a dedicated exhibition at the Guildford House Gallery in March this year. Boris is a long-standing member and supporter of The Guildford Society

This exhibition called Glimpses of Guildford was arranged with the support of the Mayor, Cllr Terence Patrick whose mayoral theme was ‘Celebrate Guildford’

The exhibition concentrated primarily on images of buildings within Guildford Borough with an emphasis on historic landmarks in the town centre. 

Many of them were published in the 2004 book of the same name and which is still on sale. This time, thirty-six original works, including some kindly loaned by members and some from the Borough Collection, were exhibited in the Garden Room. Forty-nine prints from Boris’s sketchbooks were displayed in the Brew House, and a small selection of sketches from Boris’s early years in Poland, Siberia, North Africa and Italy were also on display.

Boris, was born in 1924 and came to England from Lwow in his native Poland, by a circuitous journey which started as a teenager at 3 a.m. one morning in April 1940.   The family were woken by kicking and banging on the door and armed Russian soldiers broke in to take him and his mother to a train, load them with hundreds of others into trucks and carry them on a terrifying, life-threatening journey, to they knew not where.    It was a journey which took them by various means of transport 5,600km over mountains and across deserts to Bukon in Kazakhstan, in western Siberia.  In two years of forced labour in extreme conditions of heat and cold, on various farming, irrigation and building projects, there was little to eat or drink and survival was a struggle.  By now the Germans, who had invaded Russia in July 1941 by December had almost reached Moscow and Stalin, desperate for help allowed the formation of a Polish Army Thousands of refugees were arriving from all over Siberia to join up and in the ensuing chaos Boris and his mother managed to travel the 1800 km to Tashkent and thence to Teheran where the Polish Army linked up with the British Eighth Army.

Having left Poland as a schoolboy, Boris was now a man – a soldier who took part in the whole Italian campaign including the Battle of Monte Cassino.  After the war ended, he was repatriated to Scotland in 1946 hoping to study Art History finally in 1946 enrolled in the Polish School of Architecture which formed part of the University of London.    After qualification he joined the LCC Schools Architects’ Department and when offered a job by Norman & Dawbarn  he moved to Surrey, and finally to Guildford where he and his family have lived happily for 51 years.

As a child, Boris was happiest when sketching and even in Mongolia he recorded the nature of the landscape and the dress and activities of its people and the nature of their homes on any scraps of paper he could find.  Sad to say, much of this early work was confiscated by suspicious officials at the many frontiers he had to cross during his escape.   How fortunate we are that Guildford has inspired such a naturally gifted artist of trained architectural skills to record the charm of the town and its setting in the Surrey Hills. 

This was his first exhibition.  Although the Gallery does not record visitor numbers, the exhibition was well attended and well received:  12 of the 17 originals for sale were purchased plus 28 of the 49 prints and 26 duplicate prints, and two etchings. The ‘Glimpses of Guildford’ book also sold well.

We are extremely pleased to have been able to mount this exhibition and to bring the work of Boris Fijalkowski to the notice of the wider public and that so many people also wished to own works by the artist. Most importantly, those who attended were very enthusiastic about Boris’s particular interpretations of buildings, architectural details and landscapes familiar to all Guildfordian.

Posted by: Joan Butler/ Merilyn Spier