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Watercolor of sailboats of Jewish refugees painted by a Jewish woman artist

Object | Accession Number: 2007.521.11

Watercolor of sailboats on the Danube River painted by Ava Hegedish in 1941, just before or while living in hiding near Belgrade, Yugoslavia. The painting depicts the ships filled with Jewish refugees from Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia that she saw anchored in the middle of the river in the late 1930s-early 1940s. They were not permitted to enter port and were forced to continue their journey to the Black Sea where Ava believed they perished. She thought of them as ghost ships. The Jewish community sent food and clothing to the ships, and sometimes the students who delivered the supplies were not allowed to return to Belgrade. In April 1941, Germany and the Axis partners partitioned Yugoslavia. Belgrade was under German control. Ava's father Leo decided the family's best chance of survival was to separate and go into hiding. He returned to Novy Sad. Ava's mother Beatrice and Ava's older sister Susanna remained in Belgrade. Susanna's Greek Orthodox husband had Serbian relatives with a farm near Belgrade and they agreed to take in Ava, then 15. She did farm labor and, to avoid suspicion and because she did not speak the local Serbian dialect, pretend to be deaf and mute. Ava sometimes got scraps of paper and made drawings to hold onto her sense of self and her memories of her family. The region was liberated in October 1944. Ava searched for family and learned that her sister was killed and her father and his mother were murdered in Auschwitz. She was reunited with her mother and they settled in Belgrade where Ava attended art school.

Artwork Title
Ghost Ships, Belgrade, 1941
creation:  1941
creation: Belgrade (Serbia)
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Ava Kadishson Schieber
Record last modified: 2021-02-10 09:07:56
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