I was quite excited when I opened the umpteen folder of artwork from my ghetto, from at the archives where I am sitting these days, and in sat this perfect little watercolor of Charlotta B. She was a Czech Jewish artist, living in a mixed marriage and later divorced, from what I remember; spent almost three years in the ghetto, was liberated here, she then lived on for four decades in Czechoslovakia. Quite many other survivors remember her, she was open, friendly and talked to non-Czech prisoners, which was rare. But then, she worked in the art workshops, and the workers here were quite closely knit group. She was friendly to a Dutch teenage girl, who later started her own auction house in Amsterdam, where I interviewed her many years later, on a warm spring day in May 2001. And spring it is, here on the picture, spring as a metaphor of hope and good things to come, spring as a feeling of a jump and go, against all odds. I touched on this in my penultimate entry.
But what is most striking about the picture is that the young woman is wearing the Czech national costume, the kroj, a simplified shorthand of it, that is. It is red, white and blue, the Czech national colors. The girl, as she is jumping through that door – to the new year? the signature is for December 1944 – shows a good share of her exposed right leg. Freedom is female, aesthetic, nude, and Czech. That, I beg you, a month after the devastating transports of fall 1944, which almost emptied the ghetto. The girl is smiling as she jumps, and actually doesn’t initiate at all Peace and prudence — breath deeply, which is what the caption says. All you want to do is jump and run away with her. What a little wench, there in 66 years old watercolor.
As they say in the opening of the Fireflies: A bylo jaro, a všechno kvetlo. [And it was spring, and all blossomed]. Spring has finally come to New York – it was last week on Thursday, I have seen it, quite exactly, walking down from the 16th street to Mercury Lounge on Lower East Side. Trees had first green buds, someone planted daffodils on Union Square, and these cherry-like trees started blooming. I have no idea what tree that is, and my erratic internet search didn’t bring any results, so I wrote to my cousin Tomáš, who is a botanist and knows all what grows, greens and blossoms, and will certainly know. And he did! It’s some kind of a wild cherry. Which? That remains to be found out. Perhaps prunus avium. But then these get blossoms and leaves at the same time, and these trees hardly get any leaves as of yet. But then, this could be a condition to this year’s sudden spring. Dear readers, any suggestions?
As it happens, many other wonderful things are happening, I have finally moved to a place of my own (on which I shall report here) and there are other excellent things taking place – but of private, happy nature, and therefore shall not be covered here. Anyways, private happiness is a topic quickly covered, unlike unhappiness, which (to paraphrase Tolstoy) every time different and interesting to tell about.
I moved in yesterday late, indeed, actually today morning at 2 am, after an adventurous return from New Brunswick, where I went for a lovely dinner with a sociologist colleague. We plotted on narrativity, drank cocktails, ate organic roast chicken, missed one train, went for another drink, I made it to the 11.39 pm train, which was way late, and spent over half an hour waiting for the line 2 or 3 – which actually didn’t come. There came a 2, but, as it turned out, it went to the Ferries. I finally gave up at Rector Street, found a cab, and off we went over the Brooklyn Bridge, Flatbush and Ocean Avenue, quite appropriate, I thought, for a final arrival in a place of my own.