Four years ago she left her home town in Poland with 50 quid in her pocket.
Since then she’s been tear-gassed among protestors in Athens, she’s hitch-hiked to join separatists in South Thailand, and her next stop will see her attempt to bring peace to Palestine.
Katrina Dybzynska is quite a character and on Friday night she launched her exhibition Waiting for Time at Hotel 1961 in Siem Reap.
The collection of photographs, some quirkily displayed on customized bicycle wheels, chronicle some of Katrina’s adventures as she lives as a nomad throughout Europe and Asia.
“The guilty one is my father,” explains Katrina of her unorthodox lifestyle. “My father is a traveller as well, he never could settle down… When I was three or so, in secret, he took me for a hitch hiking trip. It was only like 15km to go to the lake or something, just to teach me, but now I’m infected by this.”
Thirty minutes chatting to Katrina about the stories behind her pictures will see her reel off tale after tale about her bohemian life of activism.
She says she has a habit of finding herself in strange circumstances, she can go to the most peaceful place in the world and end up caught up in a parade or a riot.
“I came to Greece for work and I wanted to just earn money for a ticket to Argentina to continue my tango lessons,” she explains of one such incident. “I arrived to Athens where I had to wait one day for my ferry to the islands where I had set up a good job. I took my camera and went to Syntagma Square just to take some pictures and see what was going on.”
Katrina ended up living in the square with the Occupy Movement for three months, protesting against Greek austerity measures and getting in more than a few scrapes with the authorities.
“It’s impossible to stay passive, it’s impossible to not feel these emotions, all these people so much believe in this.”
She never went to the island – and she hasn’t made that tango class in Argentina…yet.
It was during her time in Belgrade that Katrina came across her favourite piece in collection; a slide found in the Serbian television building famously bombed by NATO in 1999.
“I’m not exactly author of this photo, I am the discoverer of this photo,” Katrina explains.
“They didn’t change anything there, they didn’t clean anything, you’d still walk there and time would stop like May 26, 1999 when the bomb fell down. I found the slides, just under the stones. Most of them were like really destroyed. We managed to find the original picture, the street. For me this is a metaphor of war; all the scratches which are like scars on the human body and then the street which was very common life and then came the bombs.”
Next for Katrina is a trip to Palestine where she will work with the Michigan Peace Team on a non-political project which aims to bring neighbours on both sides of the feud together.
Proceeds from Waiting For Time will go towards the project.
For Katrina, who stayed in Cambodia on a whim after making the journey to renew her Thai visa, this is all part of a greater plan, one which includes no plan at all.
“It’s addiction, I many times was swearing and saying, ‘Now I’m coming home, I don’t want to do it any more,’ and I just couldn’t. This need of movement, this need of changes of having extreme situations all the time, it’s something you can’t forget. You feel that need of seeing with your own eyes, catching these stories, meeting incredible people and sharing their stories.”