On words and light.
In conversation with Agnieszka Boeske
Berenika Balcer, Lancaster University Graduate
It is profoundly difficult to describe her in just a few words. One may say that it is rather impossible to truly introduce someone known only from Instagram. However, Agnieszka Boeske (known as @kundelek.na.biegunie) is endearingly sincere herself in the realm of apparent fakeness. Three years ago, Agnieszka and Konrad packed their dog Bocca and moved to the North, where they found their dream little Red House amid the forest and glade where moose reside. Agnieszka is just like that - beautiful inside out, gracefully handling the words, and able to show both beautiful and hard moments with the same, extraordinary poetic matter.
Berenika Balcer: It took me a while to think thoroughly on how to approach this conversation. You put everything into words so delightfully, including those seemingly simple, everyday matters. Let’s begin with something easy only in theory, but is also inherent to all of us. Words. What do words - and writing - mean to you?
Agnieszka Boeske: To be fair, I would have left that to be the last question. So I could come back to it once I have more organised thoughts. That is because this question is as difficult as easy. I do not want to describe my relationship with words as something extraordinary as everyone’s relation with putting thought into words is like that. Intimate. I say words because I have something to say. Sometimes I don’t. It is just like life - sometimes the words come to us, are present, and sometimes they don’t.
BB: In that case, what do Instagram and the community that you have gathered there mean to you?
AB: A tremendous honour of having insight into people’s happiness, lives, and experiences. Our friends met on Instagram have become a big part of our lives. The conversations with the followers provide a great diversity of views and beliefs that teach me something new every day. And finally, I enjoy being there because I am surrounded by aesthetics that are very close to my heart.
BB: In the Visit Skellefteå video, you say that you have lived in Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania and, of course, Poland, but you have never felt so much at home as in Skellefteå. How can you know that you have found your place?
AB: You sit and think ‘This is it. I am not going anywhere now.’ It was a huge and unexpected discovery for us as we could not imagine that such a strong feeling towards a physical place was even possible. Do you remember your first love? It is not the same. It is definitely something more like a feeling of a mature relationship.
BB: And what is the Red House?
AB: Our home. Although recently, I have also been noticing that it becomes increasingly defined by its metaphorical meaning - as a symbol of finding one’s place in the world, relentlessness in searching, and of life on your own terms.
BB: Relentlessness in searching. Still, how is it to begin ‘again, in a new place, with a new language, with new people’? How are we not to be scared of taking the step?
AB: Be scared as hell! And still do it. Everything moves step by step. There are still ‘new’ things ahead of me that I am scared of. Thank goodness!
BB: But you say that when living in Lapland, you learn to live slowly. Have you found any differences - either cultural or general everyday observations - between Sweden and Poland?
AB: I don’t talk about Sweden, I talk about Northern Sweden. That is the only North I know. And here, work is just a small part of life, while the great part is reserved for free time and everything that fills it because people actually have the energy for that. No one has ever honked at me at the traffic light when I got distracted. No one sights behind you in the line in the grocery store. I do not know how to describe it - it is like living right next to nature reminds us that rush is pointless. And in the end, to ‘charge our batteries,’ we would all return to the forest or the seaside anyway.
BB: So you show yourself walking barefoot on the snow or the ice, and taking snow baths. You keep reminding people that the temperatures are experienced differently there, while normally, in Poland, it would make my mum yell about a hat and covering my ears. And, of course, you are often asked about the perpetual night. But, at the same time, you talk about light like it is your ‘additional sense.’ So how is it - with this battle between light and darkness, especially in the Lapland?
AB: What’s interesting - it is never fully dark. In winter, snow reflects the moonlight and, despite the lack of sun, it always feels like daylight. Sure, it happens that the winter nights are illuminated by perpetual nights that look like neon on the sky. We are often asked how it is to live with such different light-darkness phases. I know that a lot of people are affected by it so excessively that they either cannot sleep or cannot wake up. I do not know what it depends on. For instance, it has never influenced us in any way. But maybe it is a bit like that our psyche is able to manipulate our bodies so it would be fine?
BB: ‘Maybe I was in love with summer, but I was born for winter.’ When I think about Lapland, I obviously think about snow, maybe reindeer. Of course, one of your pictures from there has crossed to my mind. And, I cannot help but wonder whether you can see - yourself or your neighbours in Skellefteå that have lived there longer than you - any impact of climate change on this particular winter wonderland?
AB: Unfortunately, yes. We have experienced here three winters, and each of them was warmer and shorter than the one before, while summers have been warmer and warmer. I still believe that our small personal changes for nature’s goodness matter. And although many changes are irreversible, while being aware, we have a chance to understand the environment around us, hence, make better and smarter choices in every aspect of our lives.
BB: Speaking of which - ‘We are extremely funny people that believe that small steps can change the world.’ What and how would you like to change? Does not matter whether those are changes on a global scale, on a scale of your own backyard or in your personal sphere.
AB: I have only one dream in the ‘great change’ shade. I want everyone to live and experience their own lives. It is really easy. I cannot describe with words how much happiness it would provide me with.
BB: Finally, what words would you choose to describe what’s ahead of you in your lovely Red House on the edge of the world?
AB: Lots of animals in one place (laughs). Peace. Countless beautiful nights by the fireplace. Further linguistic challenges. As well as those unnamed challenges. Maturation - maybe even to new groundbreaking decisions.
Follow Agnieszka on Instagram @kundelek.na.biegunie
And check out Agnieszka and Konrad’s company and story on FeelsLikeNorth.com