Helen Hurwicz, Artist, Holocaust Survivor
Born 1904 in Warsaw, Poland
Died 1997 in Minneapolis

JFS is proud and honored to present this art exhibit created by Helen Hurwicz, mother of JFS Holocaust Survivor Services client Svetlana Shavzin.

Helen was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1904. She moved to Moscow in 1915, and later gave birth to her only child, Svetlana, in 1937. Svetlana was just three months old when her father Alexander Shavzin was taken from the family and placed in a concentration camp in Russia. Helen raised her daughter while working as a chemical engineer. Helen and Svetlana remained in Moscow until they were told to flee in 1941 because “Hitler was coming.”

Taking nothing from their home, Helen and Svetlana, along with Helen’s sister and her children, fled to the Republic of Tatarstan in the Ural Mountains. They found refuge in the basement of a local resident, but food was scarce. “I remember these big, high boots my mother used to put on to trudge through the swamps to go to the village to search for food,” recalls Svetlana. “It was always very cold there and I remember that hot food would be put under a blanket to keep it warm for as long as possible. There was nothing to burn to create warmth to reheat the food. I loved to stand as close to the food under the blanket as I could.”

In 1945, Svetlana and her mother returned to Moscow. The home they once knew was gone, so  again, they sought refuge with relatives. Helen was able to find a job and secure an apartment. After the concentration camp was liberated, Alexander joined his wife and daughter. But the conditions he endured for more than eight years had caused his health to falter, and he died less than two years later.

Svetlana and her mother immigrated to the Twin Cities in 1975. As she aged, Helen developed arthritis in her hands. Searching for a way to relieve the pain, she took a class in ceramics which ignited her interest in painting. In her eighth decade, Helen found her passion, creating brightly colored, joyful scenes of flowers, children, and many other topics that brought her pleasure.

Her work was featured in an exhibit at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery located at the University of Minnesota Department of Art and an exhibit at the Minneapolis JCC in 1991. Helen died in 1997 at 93.

Svetlana has generously donated these pieces of art to JFS. All are available to purchase. All funds raised will benefit JFS programs that support Holocaust survivors. Please contact JFS Development Director Kristen Cullen by email at kcullen@jfssp.org or by phone at (651) 239-7496 to help fund these programs with your purchase.