This article originally appeared on VICE Poland
There are currently 9,5 million Poles living in the United States, and many of them have their roots in the beautiful, but historically poorer, mountain region of Podhale. Following the fall of the Soviet Union, a number of Polish highlanders emigrated to America looking for bread but hoping to come back and use the favourable exchange rate to build spacious manors in the old country. However, various circumstances – be it better social care for the elderly, or their children not wanting to leave the place they've been born for a land they know only from family stories – kept many of them in the US, so a lot of the mansions were left unfinished.
Warsaw-based photographer Natalia Dołgowska was born in Zakopane, which is Podhale's biggest town. Last year, she travelled back to her home region to photograph the empty buildings that belong to Podhale immigrants in America. She also gathered photos of the owners' new lives, which they mailed to relatives back home. "I realised that all my childhood, I've been feeling close to America. Growing up, I always envied my friends who had family there – their plastic Christmas trees, their bubble gum and their flashy sneakers," Natalia said to VICE Poland.