Footprints: Halina

Every idea has consequences.

And our culture is full of ideas that we have acquired over generations, some have been born from the depths of our family, passed down from parents to children, others, by political and religious ideologies implanted from power, etc.

What we can't deny is that our society is guided by these ideas, and whether we like it or not, that affects our way of seeing or interpreting life and the world around us.

And all this together with my role as an artist makes me rethink many things.

Sadly, all my life I've heard people say absurd things about artists that aren't even worth mentioning. If you're an artist, you know what I'm talking about. Those questions from people around you arise about wanting to help you find a real job.

But ... you'll have to do something else in life than just painting right? But ... you're not going to spend all day painting? But ... You know that painters don't make money right?

And if you're not an artist, I'm sure you've NEVER thought that about artists, right?

Today, I'm going to write about the life of an artist in which art saved her life and left a mark on her culture. So that you can see that artists are important, necessary and that our work does matter.

She was a girl who showed artistic talent early on and the first thing she remembered from her childhood was seeing herself painting.

When she turned 18, her worst nightmare began. All she had to do was go through the door and go outside to receive discriminations and abuses from her neighbors. One day some men in uniforms forced her to go to a dirty, wall surrounded, no resources and lack of food area called the "ghetto".

"Of course, there were no paintings or colors there, but I could always find a pencil and a piece of paper somewhere. My main job was to observe, I was always good at observing [...] My need to observe what was happening was stronger than my body. It was a necessity, an imperative need. It was the most important thing. I never asked rationally what I was doing, but I had this incredible need to draw, to write what was happening. I was in the same conditions as the people around me, I saw them close to death, but I never thought that I was about to die. I was in the air. I was out of my existence. My job was simply to write, to describe with my drawings what was happening."

Some time after writing this, they forced her to go to a new place.

Do you know where?

To Majdanek concentration camp. They murdered her mother and they did things to her, well ... I can't even begin to describe the horror she had to experience there.

Exhausted and worn out, just thinking about when death would come, an officer appeared in her module and asked: does anyone know how to paint? She raised her hand.

So, she began to work making murals, decorating walls with colorful paintings, to receive commissions and won the praise of all her executioners.

From the artistic materials she received (which were exclusively for painting assignments), she began to secretly paint everything he observed and to find hiding places to store them.

She was then sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp where she continued to paint.

Her companions begged her to please paint portraits of their children, so that they would not fall into oblivion, since the Nazis justified the killing of children as an "undesirable" or "dangerous" group as part of the "racial struggle". It was a preventive security measure.

In that period of history, they killed more than 1.5 million children.

Painting these children was much deeper than painting someone's face.

My eyes fill with tears just thinking about, how she, with her talent, could bring comfort in the midst of pain and brokenness. These mothers had the hope that if they survived, they could relive the face of some of those children when they were released.

I would love that as we remember the names of Picasso, Klimt, Van Gogh or Velázquez, we also remember her.

This beautiful and courageous artist name is Halina Olomucky.

And like her there were many more artists, like Zofia Stepien-Bator, who painted the prey as she imagined they were before entering the Auschwitz camp.

They knew that if they were caught, it was their death sentence. But even so, they risked their lives to shout out about injustices through their drawings and writings.

When Halina was released, she spent two years painting her memories, aware that these works would have a very important testimonial value.

I firmly believe that artists have a great legacy of leaving our mark on culture but it is also a great responsibility.

My challenge for today is that, whether you are an artist or not, that you take a moment to think, reconsider and ask questions about those preconceived beliefs or ideas that have adhered to us as a consequence of our cultural heritage, that there are things we should cut out at the root and others that should flourish.

Let us be aware that for good or for bad we are leaving a mark on this world. I hope that in that footprint there is beauty, truth and goodness.

What footprint do you want to leave?

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