Monday, March 3, 2008

Samuel Bak, Painter

Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Samuel Bak, I am a painter. All (of my paintings) are a response to the miracle of my survival. More precisely, these paintings are a visual statement born of an ever-growing need to deal with my experience of having come through the horrors of the Holocaust, and of having done it by age eleven.

I was born in Vilna in 1933, in a city that then belonged to Poland. It is now Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. A place so famous for its institutions of learning that it was called the Jerusalem of Lithuania. The members of my family were mostly secular, but were proud of their Jewish identity. The year 1939 shattered what had been for me a child's happy paradise. Irrevocably, I was marked by traumatizing experiences -- brutal changes of regime, Nazi occupation, ghetto, murderous "aktionen," labor camps, moments of great despair, escapes, and periods of hiding in unthinkable places. I lost many of my beloved ones, but my mother and I pulled through. She provided me with a shield of so much love and care that it must have saved my psyche. When in 1944 the Soviets liberated us, we were two among two hundred of Vilna's survivors -- from a community that had counted 70 or 80 thousand. This was not the end of our personal struggle, for there followed a dangerous escape from the Soviets and a long period of waiting in the DP camps in Germany. I was fifteen when we arrived to the newly established state of Israel in 1948, which was then battling for its independence. On and off, I spent there some fifteen years of my life.

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