Artist tries to heal Holocaust wounds
When Carolyn Manosevitz tired of the Texas heat, she and her husband, Marty, escaped Austin and moved to the more comfortable climes of Missouri Heights in 1999.
Escaping the specter of Kremenets wasn’t so simple.
Manosevitz had never been to Kremenets, but the Ukrainian town has been a strong presence throughout her life. Both her parents were born and raised there. More hauntingly, virtually all of her father’s large family was murdered there by the Nazis in the Aug. 10, 1942, massacre that took the lives of Kremenets’ 15,000 Jews.
Despite that horror, Manosevitz’s late mother, who had left Kremenets with her family as a teenager, gave her daughter a rosy impression of her hometown.
“I had heard the name of this town every day of my life growing up,” said the 63-year-old Manosevitz, a native of Winnipeg. “The picture my mother had painted was the grass was greener, the trees were taller. My mother lived in the past.”
Last spring, Manosevitz went to visit that past. She and her family – including Brad, a Brush Creek resident who works as the director of community and government information for GrassRoots TV, and Jason, a grad student in political science at George Washington University – went to Kremenets to visit the place where her parents were raised, where her ancestors were killed.
Given the opposing things she had heard of the town – the beautiful mountain valley setting, the extermination of the Jews – Manosevitz didn’t know what she would find.
It was an experience of striking contrasts that Manosevitz encountered. The setting was indeed gorgeous; it reminded her of the Roaring Fork Valley. The old women plowing fields made her feel as if she were dropped two centuries back. When she asked the locals where the Jewish cemetery was, and the mass grave from the 1942 massacre, she was given the cold shoulder. Manosevitz was bewildered.
“It was like someone else was doing this. I couldn’t believe I was in this place,” she said. “No one knew where the Jewish cemetery was. We went to the old synagogue, which was now a filthy bus station. We were not welcomed. People looked at us like, what are you doing here?”
With the help of their Ukrainian guide, the Manosevitzes found the cemetery, now dilapidated, and the mass grave, a field of grass and dandelions and thousands of toppled tombstones. Over and over, she recited the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. It was a momentous occasion for Manosevitz, who lectures nationally to Christian groups about the Shoah (the Hebrew word for “catastrophe,” and the term scholars prefer for the Holocaust).
“I’ve done a lot of Holocaust research. But it’s a lot different when you’re there, where your whole family is buried,” she said. “I stood there for a very, very, very long time. It was the most significant part of my journey – and maybe of my life. I felt the spirits of all the people who wished me well, standing with me on some level.”
In addition to teaching her Spirituality and the Holocaust course to Christian seminary students from Texas to Denver to Washington, D.C., Manosevitz is an artist and art teacher.
In the early ’90s, she began to address issues of the Shoah in her work, and such themes now predominate in her art.
Following her trip to the Ukraine, Manosevitz found she couldn’t create for a month. But when she started making her mixed-media paintings, what emerged were images of grass and faces – the grass of Kremenets’ mass grave, the faces of the people buried there.
Manosevitz has created a series of works based on the Ukraine trip and the emotions stirred up. The paintings – haunted, gray collages of painting, drawings, photographs and sculpture, with ghostly faces reminding the viewer of what was lost in Kremenets and all across Europe – are part of an exhibit, along with older works, at Colorado Mountain College’s Aspen campus. The exhibit opens with a reception tonight at 5 p.m.; Manosevitz will give a gallery talk at 6 p.m.
She sees her work as an aid in the healing process, for herself and others.
“I hope any viewer looking at the work will see his or her own pain and start to heal. You have to see the wound to heal,” said Manosevitz, who has been teaching at CMC since 1986.
Manosevitz sees her work as speaking to a broader audience than the Jewish community. The Shoah was a history-altering event which all people can feel responsibility for, from which all can learn, and from which all must heal.
“I think the Shoah was a volcanic eruption that rocked the world,” she said. “Any person of faith needs to heal. As Elie Weisel said, this was not sent from heaven; this was made by man. So we all own it on some level. I’m adamant about the fact that the Shoah was not just a Jewish thing.
“My hope is that from my own efforts to heal, I can help someone with their own healing.”
Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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