Julian Bajkiewicz (*) was born in 1904 to a Polish family in the village of Bindunga on the Bug River in present-day eastern Poland. This region was part of the Russian Empire at the time. In his primary school years, he was distinguished by his talent in the fields of Polish language and culture, Russian, mathematics and music (violin and mandolin). On the basis of exceptional study results, he was selected in 1916 as a cadet in the Cossack regiment under the authority of the Governor General of New Russia (now: Ukraine) and Bessarabia (now: Ukraine and Moldova).
Chelm 1939 (1988?). In 1939 the population of Chelm consisted for 60% of Jews. Oil paint on board 41×56 cm.
The prospect of a career as a career officer in the Tsarist army was shattered in october 1917 by the Russian revolution. The White armies formed from the tsarist armies: anti-communist troops, in which monarchists, liberals, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Cossacks and nobility fought in an extremely bloody civil war. Poland regained independence in 1918 and Bajkiewicz volunteered to join the Polish army after the Polish-Soviet War in 1922. He was assigned to the 28th artillery regiment in Deblin and was educated at the Grudziadz cadet school. After three years of advanced training at a military topographical institute, he returned to his native village of Binduga and started a family. He attended several courses that would grant him access to the officer ranks.
Birkenau (1988?). Oil paint on board 42×67 cm.
At the outbreak of the war in 1939 he was assigned to one of the local self-defense units. In order not to be noticed, he changed homes several times during the occupation. In the end he hid in the woods until May 1944. During a raid on the dugout he was in, a grenade exploded 15 meters away. He suffered from tinnitus for life and became practically deaf.
Mushroom picking. Telimena and the ants (1984). From the literary masterpiece ‘Pan Tadeusz’ of Adam Mickiewicz. Oil paint on board 45×59 cm.
After the war, he settled in Chelm with his family and worked as a bookkeeper in the forestry industry and the drainage office of the Chelm region. In 1960 he was awarded an invalidity pension due to neurotic disorders. After his retirement, the disease worsened and he became a regular customer of the medical circuit, including a neurologist. His attending physician made a connection between his symptoms and Bajkiewicz’s inactivity. He gave him money to buy painting supplies (paper, pencils, brushes and paint) and instructed him to deliver a painting on his next visit. If Bajkiewicz did not meet that requirement, the doctor would not prescribe him any further prescriptions.
The beach of Swinoujcsie (1986). Oil paint on board 49×50 cm.
The diagnosis and approach of the doctor proved to be correct. Bajkiewicz took the challenge with both hands and got a taste for it. For two years he worked in seclusion to build skills and develop his own style. In 1963 he took part in an exhibition in the community center of Chelm, where his work aroused the interest of Bohdan Baranowski, professor of historical ethnography. Baranowski advised him to work with oil paint and took four works to an exhibition by non-professional artists in Lublin, where Bajkiewicz received the first prize.
In 1964, an employee of the Lublin Art Exhibitions Bureau arranged for Bajkiewicz’s work to be submitted for an international exhibition at the renowned Galerie Balzac in Paris. This was followed by a long series of exhibitions in Poland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Ukraine. Bajkiewicz was a very productive artist and painted, among other things, churches, city panoramas, beach scenes and an impressive depiction of the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was awarded several times and in 1984 a broadcast was devoted to him on Polish television. Several Polish museums have purchased his work. He died in 1990 in his hometown of Chelm.
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(*) For this biography we used written information by Elzbieta Bajkiewicz-Kalisczuk, granddaughter of the artist.