Because my grandfather refused to join a political party he'd seen seize villagers' property to repay them with imprisonment, violent threats, and beatings in the name of dementing the Communist ideal, he spent 5 tortured years of his youth locked within the brutality of Bulgaria’s Stalinist forced labor camps of the 1950s. Like many lucky survivors, he relished his post-1989 freedom to speak out against oppression, and in support of building a Democratic government as part of the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union party -- after the fall of the Berlin Wall brought on the dissolution of Communism in the Soviet Bloc. In the Cuban half of this image, a tired participant in a march organized by the wives, friends, and relatives of imprisoned political dissidents rests by a tree in front of Santa Rita Church in Havana, Cuba. The political prisoner rights group, Damas de Blanco -- translated to Ladies in White -- endures regular beatings and detainment by both undercover and uniformed Cuban police of the Communist state. Many of their loved ones still languish, imprisoned -- and yet, they march. In Catholic countries, Saint Rita is known as the patroness of impossible causes, or of heartbroken women.
Fraying family pictures from pre-1989 Bulgaria inspired this portion of a long-term project on Democracy + Communism. The parallels between them and photos I'd taken in present-day Cuba surface best when juxtaposed — one image layered on top of the other. And so, I attempt to bridge one country’s past to another country’s present — to show that political ideals, its profiteers and its victims, can remain unchanged by time or geography.