Driven out of Bukowina, Chava Wolf lived through things in the camps of Transnistria she could not speak of for 60 years. Things that, even now, she is only able to express through colors and poems. Forever deprived of her childhood, she came to Israel all by herself in 1947 to forget what she had to endure and to start a family of her own – her personal victory over the horrors of Transnistria. But whomever she tells the story behind those colorfully naive paintings to, will instantly sense how prominent her past is in her present.
My eyes are tearing
A drop falls
Holding pain within Bodies, bodies
Packed on carts
Appear before my eyes
A child looks on and cries. People, children
Are no more
Images, images Horror to behold
To shout, to be silent? Should I tell?
And I cry
Still shedding tears,
Over a vanished childhood.
born 1932 in Romania, now resides in Tel Aviv
Our day with Chava Wolf joyfully began with the Couscous she had prepared for us and little chocolate cookies for dessert. Once again we had been received with so much hospitality that an atmosphere of calmness emerged quickly. But immediately after our first question we realized how much pain had been part of her life since the war and how imminent fear was in her everyday life.
Despite of it all, or perhaps because of it, she insisted on telling us about her experiences. She feels as if people did not want to hear her story at all, and we were nearly overcome by a constricting sense of guilt.
In the rooms of Chavas small second floor apartment one can marvel over her works of art. Even though her paintings appear to be naive and colorful, the context of her history showed us a different, much darker meaning. The colors and poems aid the survivor in expressing the things she had to endure. Chava tells us that all the talks with psychologists didn’t help her cope with her past as much as her art and poetry do.
While looking for a suitable ambiance for the portrait, her bedroom caught our eye. Each wall is covered with photographs of her family, a porcelain doll stands in the corner. It is a tiny piece of childhood she had bought back for herself at the age of 70. It seems that Chava is preserving all the things dear to her, much like a treasure. Amidst the mementos of her new life we photographed her in a way that slightly surrounds her by shadows – it is the fears that accompany her.
Above all, Chava wants to be heard. Her poems and paintings cry out for people for people to notice her. It is harrowing that someone, who has been deprived of years of her life and the lightness of youth, does not receive any support and has to live in such modest conditions.
At the door we briefly meet her husband. Almost pleading, she sees us off with the words: »This is my husband. He, too, was in a concentration camp. Never forget our story.«
We will not. We couldn’t possibly.