Thursday, 22 January 2015

Memory Makers Project for
Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

In the Autumn I was very kindly invited to be involved with the Memory Makers project as part of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust's 2015 celebrations; commemorating survivors of the Holocaust and other subsequent genocides through the platform of creative responses showcasing the survivors' personal stories. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkeneau.

Six other British writers and artists, including Stephen Fry, also took part in the project producing specially created works in various formats, such as; illustration, poetry, ceramics, sculpture, animation and film to portray the experiences of the genocide survivors that they met in person.

Meeting with Sabina

I met with 92 year old Sabina Miller, a survivor of the Holocaust, during early October in Central London.

She told me her powerful story of a loving childhood in Poland and a family unit torn apart simply because they were Jewish. They were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto and contracted Typhus, resulting in Sabina losing her family to illness and mystery. She fled to the Polish countryside hiding in the ground, saw the constant flow of trucks transporting Jewish people away, and adopted the identities of non-Jewish girls to escape capture. Her only possession left from the war to remember her family by is a checkered cardigan that she wore the day her family were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Everything else was lost.

Meeting with Sabina inspired me both personally and creatively. This was someone who had everything taken away from her simply because of who she was, but through fierce courage and determination overcame adversity and hardship. I admire Sabina greatly and it was a true honour to have met her.

Illustrated Response

'Sabina' by Kimberley Burrows, 2014

When I first met Sabina and she told me her incredible story, a few elements immediately grabbed me and stayed in my mind; the powerfully haunting image of two young girls (one of whom was a young Sabina) huddling together in a hole in the ground, against a snowy backdrop, with just a blanket between them, the harrowing sight of trucks continuously visiting the farm where Sabina worked, taking and transporting any Jewish people they could find, and the Sabina today and how incredibly strong and positive she is now that she has a large, loving family and no longer has to hide her identity.

She left the war without a family so I wanted to illustrate the family she has now, with Sabina surrounded by her grandchildren, the youngest of which is enveloped in her only possession left from the War – a patterned cardigan – which will be passed down through the generations.

I knew that I wanted to capture all of this powerful imagery in my response that I have called, simply, ‘Sabina’. My gift to her. Meeting her was such an honour and a wonderful experience where, in those few short hours we spent talking to each other, she influenced me beyond my imagining. Through her powerful storytelling, kind nature and wise words I have learned first-hand how strong people can be even after enduring the loss of family, identity and hope and that love, kindness and positivity can truly conquer all.

Keep the Memory Alive

My page on the HMDT website can he accessed here with a full overview of why I wanted to take part in the project, meeting Sabina for the first time, her full story of surviving the Holocaust, and the creative process behind my illustration.

Holocaust Memorial Day is held annually on January 27th. Find out how you can get involved with the Memory Makers project by clicking here. You can also follow the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust on Facebook and Twitter.