Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Painting by Sophia Kalski picturing her escape through the Lwow ghetto fence when she was a young child

Object | Accession Number: 2004.698.14

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward


    Brief Narrative
    Oil painting created by Sophia Kalski in 1985 about her escape from the Lwow ghetto at age 10 through the wooden fence and behind the backs of the German guards in March 1943. In Sophia's words: "Escape from Lwow ghetto, end of Mar. 1943. Zamarstynowska #1. The Germans are in the street and I'm running. I was told that through the fourth post in the fence I will be able to leave. I reached the fence, I counted four posts. In the moment the German turned his back, I discovered the hole in the fence and with the speed of lightening, I passed through this hole to the other side, the Aryan side. One minute of fear, that will bring life or death. Polish children discovered me and started to yell "Jewess!" and throw stones at me. I managed to avoid them, to run away, and to cross the street."
    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
    Escape from Lwow ghetto
    creation:  approximately 1990
    depiction:  1943 March
    creation: Israel
    depiction: Lwow (Poland) (historic); L'viv (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sophia Kalski
    lower right, Hebrew script, red paint : קלסק' סופיה [Sophia Kalski]
    Sophia Kalski
    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

    Physical Description
    Oil painting on canvas depicting a fenced in street. The tall light brown and white fence, topped by dark brown rows of barbed wire, crosses the right foreground; near the center it angles inward and forms a sharp corner. Within the fenced area is a 3-story grayish-white building with a flat, snow covered roof and windows and a sign, ZAMARSTYNOWSKA. A tiny blond haired girl in a dark blue dress is pushing through an opening in the fence; on the white, snow covered street nearby, 2 green uniformed guards walk away with their back to the girl. On the left, outside the fence, are 2 small faceless figures next to a pile of stones on snow covered ground with brown yellow plantlike markings. Hanging above their heads is a jagged streak of red paint. The artist’s name and date are inscribed in red paint in the lower right. It is in a black and dark and light brown painted wooden frame.
    overall: Height: 24.875 inches (63.183 cm) | Width: 30.750 inches (78.105 cm) | Depth: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 19.500 inches (49.53 cm) | Width: 25.125 inches (63.818 cm)
    overall : canvas, oil paint, wood, paint
    lower right, below signature, red paint : 85

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The painting was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004 by Sophia Kalski.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-06 11:55:54
    This page:

    Download & Licensing

    In-Person Research

    Contact Us