© 2019 by Michelle Levy. 

Help us tell her story

Her name was Paulina.

A stirring history has emerged from the archives, sending me on a nine-month investigation in Poland: I discovered the testimony of a previously unknown relative, Paulina, who had navigated the Holocaust at the age I am now. 

Who was Paulina? Ten pages of a fading testimony transcribed in Krakow in 1945 were all that appeared to exist of Paulina Hirsch, a Polish-Jewish woman traveling throughout Nazi-and Soviet-occupied Poland. The notetaker's introduction begins, “Sama" -- She is alone.

I am now in Warsaw, working with archives, sites and individuals to understand Paulina's story in present-day. This research will culminate in a performative journey that retraces Paulina's path through Poland and Ukraine with Polish artist/counterpart Patrycja Dołowy. Dołowy, whose work is centered on drawing out marginalized stories – mostly of women – connected with Jewish memory in Poland, has played a crucial role in this evolving investigation.

The current political situation in Poland, where Holocaust history is under constant threat of being revised through a nationalist lens — amidst the worldwide spread of nationalism that jeopardizes marginalized voices everywhere— increases the importance to give careful attention to this woman's story now.

 

The results will be used to create a major performance piece, accompanied by an exhibition and text that continue to explore how this complicated history plays out in the present.

We need your help. While numerous organizations have generously given space and staff resources for PAULINA's development, this is a self-organized project. It involves working and traveling intensively with a wonderful collaborating Polish artist who is volunteering to spend time away from her family and her job to do this. This project calls upon the labor of researchers, and translators. It requires quality documentation of the process, along with space and technology resources to produce and present the resulting work. We are hoping to ease the hardship and offset some of these expenses. Your tax-deductible gift, no matter the size, will help towards our goals.

Here is a giving guide + lesson in grandma's Yiddish (a once-common language in Poland):

 

Naches (joy) $10 +:  Bring an astral smile to the face of a long lost ancestor (and I will drink a shot of Polish vodka in your honor)

 

Saychel (common sense) $25:  I will send you regards on a vintage postcard from the region (Communist era, post-war, or other).

 

Mishpacha (extended family) $50: I will hand write you a personal letter during my journey, containing drawings and ephemera (and I will cross my fingers that you write back).

 

Rachmones (compassion) $100:  You will receive the above postcard and letter, plus two other surprise items. 

 

Mensch (person of noble character) $250:  I will make you a personalized video revealing behind-the-scenes clips, and a secret message said to you in Polish.

 

Kvell-ing (beaming with pride) $500:  I will make you an original work on paper (print, collage, drawing, hand-sewn elements) composed from images found, altered, and created during the time in Poland, also containing a secret message in Polish.* 

 

Ver klempt (all choked up) $1000:  You will become the proud owner of a lovingly assembled keepsake analog photo album containing printed archival photos from the journey, along with notes and ephemera. You will be listed as a sponsor on all materials related to the travel research, and performance presentations in 2018/2019.

 

B'shert (meant to be) $2500 +:  You will be listed as a sponsor on all related materials, in perpetuity, of every iteration of this project moving forward, plus you will receive all of the above.

Please visit the PAULINA project page for a full description of the project.

 

Art objects will be created upon return from the trip in late summer of 2019

 

Current research for this project is made possible thanks to the cooperation of the 

POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, with additional research support provided by the Emmanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute. PAULINA received a 2018 grant from Asylum Arts Small Grants Program, and is the 2019 Project-in-Residence for FestivALT (Krakow).

Paulina (She is Alone) is a fiscally sponsored project of the Brooklyn Arts Council