The Art On Our Walls
Current Featured Artist:
Silence and Joy
I was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1935. After the German occupation of Poland in 1939, my family escaped to the city of Lida in Belarus (in the Soviet Union). We came under Germans rule after the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, and ghetto inmates later that fall. In the ghetto massacre of May 8, 1942, most of the Lida Jews were shot; my family was initially selected to die but we were later spared because the Germans needed my father’s surgical skills to operate on wounded German soldiers. In the summer of 1942, I was given away to a Christian woman in response to a rumor that all Jewish children would be killed; I returned to the ghetto when the rumor proved false. In November 1942, Jews in the Russian partisans rescued us from the ghetto and brought us to the nearby Lipiczany forest. In early 1943, a partisan hospital was established in a remote part of the forest, with my father as chief of staff. To protect me from rape by the Russian partisans, I was turned into a boy, my hair was shaved and I wore boy’s clothing. On my eighth birthday, I was given a pistol of my own. We were liberated in June 1944. Later that year we escaped Belarus to central Poland. Traveling as refugees, we traversed most of central Europe to flee the invading Soviets. Soldiers in the Jewish Brigade from Palestine brought us to Italy, where we stayed for nearly two years. I came to America in February 1947, as I turned 12. I came with no knowledge of English or previous schooling and I had a lot of catching up to do. Nevertheless, I finished high school at 17 and college at NYU at 20, and married Henry Brysk (a physicist and professor) and Holocaust survivor from France. We have two daughters, Judy (a physician) and Havi (a psychologist and artist), five grandchildren and one greatgrandchild.
After I retired in Dec 2000, from my career as a scientist and professor at the University of Texas, I moved to Ann Arbor, MI in 2001 to pursue my dreams of becoming an artist and writer on the Holocaust. In 2002, I returned for the first time to Eastern Europe with a group of local Jews, and headed by Professor Zvi Gittelman to view the remnants of the ghettos, camps and killing fields of the Holocaust. I cried my way throughout the entire trip, as the gaping wounds from my past reopened. I allowed the pain of those memories to again be felt, as I remembered my own experiences and those in my own family who perished. Their faces have haunted me my entire life. I felt a deep need to portray their suffering and return to them their dignity as Jews; the dignity denied them by the Germans. On that trip, while mourning the loss of my Warsaw family in Treblinka, I made a pact with myself and with God that I would devote my remaining life to commemorating the Jews who perished in the Holocaust. What followed since were three major art exhibits on the Holocaust.
I retired at 65 from my professorship at the University of Texas Medical Branch, and then moved back with my husband to Michigan to be with my family. Now many years later at age 83, I had accomplished my goals of documenting the Holocaust. I decided that the time had come to create art that celebrated life and all its wonders, rich with colors and joy. These more whimsical and happy pieces express the gratitude and joy I now feel: to have survived the Holocaust, to have been blessed with a loving family (my husband Henry, daughters Judy and Havi, five grandchildren and one greatgrandchild) and to have had the opportunity to live a full and creative life, on my own terms, as a passionate individualist.