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Painting by Sophia Kalski expressing how she felt when she was a young girl imprisoned in the ghettos

Object | Accession Number: 2004.698.19

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    Brief Narrative
    Oil painting created by Sophia Kalski in 1985 about her life as a 9 year girl n the ghettos in Lwow and Trembowla, Poland (L’viv and Terebovlia, Ukraine), from summer 1942 - summer 1943. It shows a young blond haired girl in a blue dress with a worn and distressed facial expression. In Sophia’s words inscribed in painting: "I always see myself as a small girl. The small girl in me. I feel it cannot change. Even at the beginning of old age, I remember her - the little girl. I identify with her image and everything else I push away. Everything else I push away, there is a great denial in me, the little girl in me refuses to disappear in the shadows of the years and the events chase me throughout my life, and don't let me brush them off. To grow up from the beginning always sweet and I listen to her endless story, she will never die and never disappear from me, this little big girl from the Holocaust."
    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
    Myself as a Small Girl
    creation:  1994
    depiction:  1942 September-1943 May
    creation: Israel
    depiction: Trembowla (Poland) (historic); Terebovlia (Ukraine)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sophia Kalski
    top edge, black ink, stamped : Hebrew / 70-55
    right edge, black ink, stamped : 70-55
    lower right, white 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 young blond girl standing below a block of text in front of a barbed wire fence. She has choppy, shoulder length hair and large, blue eyes set in a gaunt, heavily shadowed face. She is wearing a brown scarf, a dark blue, button down jacket, and a white armband with a blue Star of David. Behind her, extending from left to right, is a brown wooden fence topped with barbed wire. Above is Hebrew text on a white background is black Hebrew text. Hebrew text and numbers are inscribed on the edges of the canvas and the artist’s signature and date are inscribed in the lower left and right. The canvas is stapled to a wooden backing.
    overall: Height: 27.625 inches (70.168 cm) | Width: 21.500 inches (54.61 cm) | Depth: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm)
    overall : canvas, oil paint, wood, ink, metal
    lower left, below signature, red paint : 87 (line across 7)

    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 12:38:28
    This page:

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