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Painting by Sophia Kalski based on her experiences as a young girl looking through a window at a horsedrawn sleigh packed with dead bodies

Object | Accession Number: 2004.698.4

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Oil painting created by Sophia Kalski in 1988 about her life as a 9 year girl in the ghetto in Lwow, Poland (L’viv, Ukraine), from summer 1942 - March 1943. It depicts a young blond haired girl with blond looking out a wood framed window at a horsedrawn cart filled with bleeding bodies. There is a long red slash of paint in the upper right. In Sophia’s words: "On Jan. 7, 1943, after the aktion in Lwow, I see through the window people picking up corpses to bring them to a mass grave. The collection of the corpses lasts a day or two approximately."
    In early 1942, Sophia and her parents, Natan and Sarah, were imprisoned in the Jewish ghetto in Trembowla, Poland (Terebovlia, Ukraine), by the occupying Germans. Natan escaped to Lwow, and Sophia was sent to live with him. In January 1943, Natan, died of typhus. Ten year old Sophia was on her own in the ghetto until March when she was able to escape and get back to Trembowla. That summer, the Germans began to destroy the ghetto, killing or deporting its Jewish residents. Sophia and her mother escaped to Humniska, where a Gentile couple, Anna and Voitek Gutonski, hid them in an underground burrow until the Soviet army liberated the area in March 1944.
    Artwork Title
    After the aktion in Lwow, January 7, 1943
    Date
    creation:  1988
    depiction:  1943 January 07
    Geography
    creation: Israel
    depiction: Lwow (Poland) (historic); L'viv (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sophia Kalski
    Signature
    lower right, Hebrew script, black paint : קלסק' סופיה [Sophia Kalski]
    Contributor
    Artist: Sophia Kalski
    Subject: Sophia Kalski
    Biography
    Sofia (Zosia) Korpoltz was born on January 7, 1933, in Trembowla, Poland (Terebovlia, Ukraine), to Nachum Natan, born in 1905 and Sidonia Sara Stern Korpoltz, born in 1910, also in Trembowla. Natan was a radio technician. The family was not particularly observant of Jewish traditions, though Sara had been raised in a Jewish observant home.

    After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Trembowla came under Soviet occupation for a year and a half. Then, in June 1941 Germany launched an attack on the Soviet Union, and the town was occupied by the Germans. In the second half of 1942, Germans forced the Jews into a ghetto. Natan Korpoltz managed to escape to Lvov, Poland (Lviv, Ukraine), while Sofia stayed in her grandfather's house in Trembowla, together with her mother. Natan found a family willing to hide Sofia, since she was blond and people would easily assume that she wasn't Jewish. However, the family soon decided that it was too dangerous and Sofia was sent back to her father to the ghetto. Natan worked as a forced laborer and they moved frequently around the ghetto, sleeping on stairs and in hallways.

    The Lvov ghetto was sealed in the fall of 1942. The long days when her father was at work were difficult for Sophia, as it was rarely safe enough for children to go out and play. When they did, as Sophie recalled later, they always played the same game, building bridges. And as she remembers them, the games “lacked the joy of childhood. Already then, the children didn’t know how to laugh.” Food was scarce. In early December, Sofia and her father sold all of their possessions to purchase one bowl of soup and a potato at the restaurant in the ghetto. There were frequent Aktionen, when the Germans would round up Jews for deportation to death camps. During an Aktion on January 5 and 6, 1943, Sophia hid, without her father, in a basement with strangers. They hid behind a dividing wall made of thick green bottles. Sophia could see the flashlights of the German soldiers as they searched for Jews, but they left without noticing the hidden room. The people in a nearby house refused to let the Germans inside, so the soldiers sealed the house and set it on fire. Sophia remembers watching them gather corpses for two days following this Aktion.

    At the end of January 1943 Sofia's father died of typhus at the Lvov ghetto hospital. Seeing her waiting there, a friend of her father’s told her to leave and to try to get back to Trembowla. At the end of March Sofia escaped through a hole in the fence of the ghetto. Friends arranged to have a non-Jewish woman help Sofia reach Trembowla.

    She was smuggled into the Trembowla ghetto where living conditions worsened substantially. About three months after her return, the Germans began the liquidation of the ghetto. During one of the round-ups Sofia and her mother escaped to nearby wheat field. The mother of one of Sofia’s non-Jewish classmates brought them food and water for several weeks until they were warned that it was too dangerous to stay in that area. They walked through the forest to Umniska village (Humnyska), where Sofie’s maternal grandparents, Meir Stern, b. 1882, and Rena Koppel Stern , b. 1885, had lived before the war. By 1943, they and their daughter, Bronia, had been deported and murdered in the Belzec death camp. The first few former neighbors they contacted were fearful and agreed to help them only for a few days. Anna and Wojtek Gutonski, a Catholic couple with 4 children, agreed to hide them for as long it seemed possible. Sofia and her mother hid on their farm for 8 months, often lying on their backs in a hole dug in the ground beneath the barn. The village was liberated by the Soviet Army in March 1944. Sofia and her mother eventually emigrated to Israel. Sarah died, age 83 years, in 1993. Sofia Kalski painted images depicting her wartime experiences. She died in 2012.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Hebrew
    Classification
    Art
    Category
    Paintings
    Physical Description
    Oil painting on canvas depicting a young blonde haired girl in profile wearing a long-sleeved blue dress looking out a set of double doors with large windows in the center of a room with light blue painted walls. In the left foreground, below 2 bracket shelves, is a narrow brown wood slat bed with rumpled white bedding. On the right and left is a similarly unkempt bed and a tilted framed picture. In the middle ground is the view through the windows of a man driving a sleigh filled with dead bodies dripping blood onto the snow covered street. There are 2 attached snow covered houses in the background. To the right of the window is a long narrow red slash. The artist’s name is inscribed in the lower right. It is in a brown wooden frame.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 20.250 inches (51.435 cm) | Width: 28.125 inches (71.438 cm) | Depth: 1.125 inches (2.858 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 15.375 inches (39.053 cm) | Width: 23.250 inches (59.055 cm)
    Materials
    overall : canvas, oil paint, wood

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The painting was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Sophia Kalski.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-06 11:41:17
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn522805

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