The war in Ukraine has got me thinking about my maternal grandparents. I know my grandmother’s story more than my grandfather’s, perhaps because he died when I was very young. She, Esther, was born in Odessa in the late 1800s when it was part of Russia. She and her family fled their home because as Jews they were subjected to persecution and were in danger of being murdered. They emigrated from Russia to the United States when she was a child. My grandfather was also from Russia and also escaped to the United States.
I have two photos of my grandmother as a child. In this one, she is with her two sisters and her mother. She is the seated girl on the right leaning on her hand and looking very unhappy. In 1991, I made an acrylic painting on paper of Esther, loosely based on that photo. When I look at the painting now, she looks less anry and despairing than in the photo. Here are the two.