Artist's Statement

Hannah Kozak

My father, a Holocaust survivor, was never a victim. His unresolved grief and sadness became a catalyst for ambition. His parents were Orthodox Jews who in my father’s words, “never had money in the bank and lived hand to mouth.” As one of eight children, he was the only one of his family to survive, including his parents and grandparents.

My father raised the bar on survival for me. Nothing in my life will ever compare to what he has seen so I am sharing part of him here. Giving shape to something painful and sharing it helps us to process our grief and to decrease the burden of what we carry. I find sharing healing, instead of covering up secrets from childhood.

I have traveled to Poland numerous times to see the camps he was in and the killing centers where his family were murdered while tracing his steps to all of the camps he was forced into. Dernau, in particular, quieted me while awakening every sense. I saw the barbed wire fence that kept him prisoner, as he was close to death, I heard crickets and the ever present singing of birds that seem to sing differently in Poland, than the U.S. I wondered if he could have heard the running water from the creek surrounding the camp. Could he see the tall, sinewy trees? Making it out alive was a combination of his will, his intuition, luck and a miracle.