Gut gut, German for “good good”, a phrase that Kate Schultze noted countless times whilst travelling through East Prussia in search of discovering more about her family history. East Prussia, the enclave of Russia and surrounded by Poland and Lithuania was the birthplace of her grandfather and further ancestors.
A country steeped in history and once part of the German Empire, after World War II, East Prussia was partitioned between Poland and the Soviet Union. With the exception of the Klaipėda territory, which was reincorporated into Lithuania, the northern part was incorporated into the Russian federation and colonised by Russians. In the southern part about 400,000 indigenous Poles remained, and immigrants from pre-1939 Poland replaced the Germans, who either had fled in 1944 or were expelled after the war ended.
Immersing herself in research surrounding the country that she’d heard so much about whilst growing up, Kate Schultze’s objective was to understand East Prussia as a place. Aware of why her grandad migrated from here to Germany after the war and understanding why poorly managed politics over the past 70 years has left East Prussia with many social issues that have led to a great deal of poverty. Kate speaks about how she felt that ties to East Prussia made her inquisitive and one day how she dreamt of visiting.
The series is a documentation of Schultze in search of her family links and a trip which her and her mother would attempt to track down places that their ancestors once inhabited. Taking a bus throughout the country and recognising places on the way was their only hope. It soon became apparent on the trip that many people were on the trip for the exact same reason, to see where families that once lived and had either fled or been extradited. Capturing the land and engaging with others on the trip, Kate describes how she found this fascinating. “I documented what surrounded us and the people I travelled with, who were there for mostly the same reason but probably felt as lost as I did. I felt lost and empty whilst travelling through East Prussia. There was a lot of unused space, which they tried to make as presentable as possible, but it still seemed abandoned and neglected, yet I found it somehow beautiful and worth capturing.”
Gut Gut is an ode to her grandfather and a photographic adventure that for now would settle Schultze’s wish to witness a place that seemed so familiar in her mind, yet so distant to her physically. The images are a documentation of a place that she’d only ever laid eyes on through image; a piece of history that Kate would carry on throughout her life and through to future generations. For Kate, the set of monumental images capture her thoughts and feelings throughout her trip and the emptiness she describes as being left with.
See more of Kate’s work Here.