|Butterfly on Echinasea, photographed outside my Aunt Helen’s home and painted for the “The End” page in my children’s books|
I recently heard Simon Sinek’s interesting talk with a group of artists in NYC. His “preamble” included a short discussion on the missing element today of Art Patrons.
He pointed out how great musicians like Mozart and Beethoven did not pay their own bills – they had Patrons who believed in their genius and ability to provide needed inspiration to the world.
Historically, many visual artists lived in the homes of those who had commissioned their portraits.
I believe similarly, most artists today would greatly benefit from and need more private financial support from friends, relatives and others in order to have the rest, emotional and physical strength to create their best works. A tired mind does not create well.
I currently have several friends who function as my Art Patrons. I could not survive without them. One gives me food from their farm, another houses me when I travel, another helps me when I am in need by commissioning paintings or placing card orders. I am sincerely grateful for these kind and generous people!
The following account is about the life a former Art Patron, who died in September of 2016. She is greatly missed by her family and friends.
My Aunt Helen opened her home to me after my sister’s 35-pound benign ovarian tumor surgery. I was my sister’s primary care-giver for five months, and had physical/emotional fatigue and very little funds when I first went to live with Helen.
I painted illustrations for my children’s books the next Spring, while Helen shared many of her amazing life stories with me.
She told me this important and unforgettable story of her own WWII heritage. I share it now, as best as I can remember it, in Helen’s own words:
Angels From The Sky
It was early in 1945, and my mother, Marie, had already narrowly escaped being shot and killed many times at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
She was a political prisoner, and I had been born there at the camp, in early August, of 1944.
My mother was a strong, beautiful, intelligent and generous woman. She was nursing me in the camp, and yet she would also share her food rations with others.
She was imprisoned in Auschwitz after being caught in the woods of Poland, carrying dynamite used to blow up German bridges.
My mother was a trained member of the Polish Resistance against the Nazi invasion. She would leave the Jewish getto, putting her pinned “Jude” star into her pocket. She spoke fluent Polish and German, and had excellent false papers, declaring her to be an Arian Catholic.
She was really of completely Jewish heritage.
My mother had previously been taken to be executed in “Room Eleven” where Auschwitz prisoners went to be shot and killed.
Once, the Polish guard who took her there had been drunk, and they arrived late. The dead bodies of those just executed were already being carried from this terrible room.
As a very beautiful twenty-two-year-old woman, my mother’s guard may have desired to spare her life, or perhaps he had some measure of conscience. His tardiness saved her life that day.
[In January of 1945, the Germans began to realize the end of World War II was near. Russian and Allied Troops were approaching.
The Germans decided to take all remaining Auschwitz prisoners – about 60,000 people – on what became a “Death March”.]
One day, a member of the German SS Troops came into the room where my mother was and ordered her harshly to “Get out!”, motioning toward the door with his rifle.
“I have a badly sprained ankle,” she told him quietly, in perfect German. “I will not survive a march. Shoot me first, and then shoot my baby,” she instructed the German Officer.
This young German Officer looked frightened. He quickly crossed himself and told her, “I, too, have a wife and child at home. Hide over there in the corner.” The SS Officer rushed out of her room, again sparing my mother, Marie’s life, and mine, too.
The camp then became much quieter, without the SS Guards and most of the other 60,000-odd prisoners, who had been marched off. A few prisoners, too weak to march, remained at the camp.
Meanwhile, like angels from the sky, Russian paratroops had dropped from planes, opening parachutes, and floated silently to the cold, snowy ground. It was the middle of winter and air temperatures were frigid.
After landing on the ground, these brave men wrapped their uniforms with white parachute fabric, camaflaging their bodies against the whiteness of the snow, and ran as fast as they could. They had expected to be shot at by German troops as they descended from the planes.
On January 27, 1945, heavily clothed Russian parachute troops entered Auschwitz prison camp. Speaking brokenly in a different language to his mother tongue, a Russian Officer demanded to know, “Where are the Germans?!”
“They have all gone,” my mother answered them.
Another Russian soldier put a radio down on the ground and began to transmit this message to Russian command.
As this Russian soldier pulled down their face mask, which protected them from the frigid winter air, Marie was shocked to see this Russian soldier was a woman! My mother learned the radio operator was the wife of the Russian Officer who had asked her where the Germans were.
The Russians arrived to help liberate us!
My mother and I stayed at the Auschwitz prison camp until May of that year. We had survived a terrible ordeal by the grace and mercy of God.
We moved from Poland after the war, first to Israel, then France, then to Canada, and finally to a peaceful life in America.
It amazes me how God preserved Marie and Helen’s lives, so that Helen could then help preserve mine, seventy years later.
May you, friends, receive with joy and gratitude all the help given to you, for at times we all need the assistance of others.
Happy Spring! Happy Passover! And Happy Resurrection Day!
Blessings and love from your painting friend,