I have become close friends with Ania over the years. We met regularly in various meeting places, such as the Fitzroy gardens, Queen Victoria Market, various cafes in Melbourne and at my place. At the initial stages of our friendship, whenever we got together, she would point out the attributes and qualities she sees in me: “You are not seeking for approval. You write the way you need to write, that makes poetry unique. That’s how I am too. That’s why I like you!” … “The Ancient Turkey, Anatolia is full of wonder and intersections. I can see the signs your work. That’s why I like you!” … “You are not pretending; you are sincere and warm as a friend. That’s why I like you!” … and the list would go on. Ania was very appreciative of the qualities she sees in people around her, and I think it was very sweet of her to share her thoughts openly in this respect and be celebrative of a meaningful friendship.
Ania was also very caring in her friendships. I was unwell for many months with a stomach problem in 2019. She called me religiously every weekend, each time asking me how I feel, have I eaten well, am I drinking enough water, do I go out on the balcony to get some fresh air every day, am I reading good poetry etc … She was disappointed about the fact that I couldn’t write anything for more than six months, though she would comfort us by saying “Oh well, the art world is dead anyway! Culture is dead!” But again, she would end our phone call with a typical statement shimmering with glimpses of hope, “We better keep writing, that`s all we can do.” She was overjoyed to hear that I finally wrote a poem titled ‘illness moves’ upon feeling better. “We shall celebrate!” she said.
I remember vividly the evening of 17th of December in 2018, when Ania, I and a few other friends attended the Whirling Dervishes Ceremony “Rumi’s wedding with Eternity” (known as “Sheb-i Arus”) in Windsor. Ania was deeply moved, following the ceremony she said to me,“I felt home for the first time”. And she told me how she used to whirl around herself freely when she was a child – not knowing why, and that her ancestor (if I remember correctly, her great grandfather) used to whirl too, for he was a Hassid. Ania then mentioned that she wrote a poem about turning - long before she read Rumi’s poem on turning which resonates similarly - and that she thought it was a very strange coincidence. That evening we had a deep discussion on similarities between the nature of the act of writing poetry and a mystical experience. Knowing that mysticism itself is to experience the “truth” through one’s own experience and one’s very own experience alone, Ania and I would agree that surrendering through poetry and writing it in the process of honestly and humbly getting to know one’s self is not so different than a mystical experience. The poetic act is indeed a precious way of experiencing the “truth” (whatever that might mean to each one of us), whichever way that truth wants to reveal itself to that specific poet through an individualised experience. We feel drawn into an almost trance-like state through Ania’s experimental writing, and this is indicative of the fact that her very experience is deeply humanistic, almost primal, tapping into the (Jungian concept of) collective unconsciousness of the very existence of life and human experience of suffering, transcending and thus continuously ‘becoming’. This was only one of many discussions I had with Ania, on the vast topic of subtle interconnections between life and poetry. I feel grateful and privileged to get to know Ania and her incredible writing over the years, as I felt there was also a strong affinity, in turn further encouraging continuing my soul-search through art and poetry, while Ania continued hers.
Ania agreed to be the subject of my multiple art projects; photography, painting and sculptural projects. I took photos of her in Fitzroy Gardens while she was wearing her beard and dark red velvet coat. She posed for me so naturally, we both enjoyed the process. Upon seeing the newly taken images on my camera, Ania said she could immediately see herself as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s 'Erlking' image. And that is a poem by Goethe that has been important in Ania’s life; it is the first poem she ever encountered, told to her by her father when she was four. I then knew that this photographic series portrays significant psychological landscapes of Ania’s state of existential survival in an ordinary Australian life, and that ‘Erlking’ is a metaphorical gateway to something beyond, untold, and not easily graspable.
Upon working on these projects, Ania said to me one day “Well… now it’s your turn Elif, you will be my subject and I will make a drawing of you next time”, and I said I am looking forward to it. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions we never had a chance to get together again. So she couldn’t make a drawing of me, and couldn’t give me a copy of her book ‘Red Roses’, and couldn’t visit me at my new place in the Northern Melbourne suburb (couldn’t “go on a pilgrimage to my place” as she jokingly put it), and we couldn’t examine the evocative poetry of Baroness Elsa Plotz together, and I couldn’t play her the violin, and we couldn’t have that experimental automatic writing session, and she couldn’t publish her new book that explores the intersections of cinema and poetry, and couldn’t publish her review of my latest book of poems… there were many ‘to-do’s on the list, but since she left our planet too early, many things are left incomplete. I think it is this notion of incompleteness deepens my grief of her untimely loss. Death is a natural process for humankind as we all know, and the fact that we are all going to physically die one day is somewhat comforting. None of us are privileged over another in this sense. The fact that Ania was alone (and chose to be alone) in the recent months and died alone in her Fitzroy apartment, breaks my heart. I spoke to her over the phone about two months prior her departure and she told me she is not feeling well, was in and out of hospitals, and that she needed some privacy recently, thus not been in touch. She sounded more pessimistic than usual, saying “we will not be able to catch up again, this Covid virus will stick around; we will end up housebound until we die. I think it is the end of the world really, it’s horrible!” She said she needed some time to feel a bit better, and that she will call me back in two months’ time, she asked me to wait for that. I read about Ania’s death on a Facebook-post last Friday, two months after our phone call, the exact time I was expecting a call from her. I’m heartbroken.
Rest in eternal peace, my dearest friend … I can still see you in your checkered pants, red shoes, resourceful backpack, standing on a lighted doorsill, with your index finger pointing to the sky, declaring “It’s peculiar!...”
Elif Sezen, October 2020
Elif Sezen, ‘Ania Walwicz with her beard’, photographic series. Archival inkjet print. Dimensions variable. 2020. Courtesy of the artist. Elif Sezen © 2020