Cultural Property

Zlata Volaric

It’s a profound concept to ponder, that even in the worst and most hopeless circumstances a human being can create something beautiful. It’s that indestructible human genius that, like a roach, survives the harshest conditions. You can see it spread across the walls as a graffiti mural, or hear it in the song of a street musician.
Genius can make color while living in places as hopeless as a ghetto, or concentration camp.
Zlata Volaric (my grandmother, passed few years ago) and her family, where sent to one when she was young.
It is an interesting neighborhood that my grandparents live in. As far as I can remember, there where/are a handful of holocaust survivors there (neighbors). They all let the situation do something different to them. The neighbor on the other end was all the more strong, beautiful, and free for it. I guess that’s an example of “letting go”, forgiving, and never looking back. I always considered situations like that opportunities to rise above, and truly be a human being (although harder said than done).
Their house was just like any other old people’s house. Somewhat like one of the exhibitions they where constantly being showcased in… I would go around touching and re-arranging items just to see if they would sporadically rocket away, propelled by the amount of energy they gathered through decades of stagnation.
Among these possessions my grandmother had a beautiful, colorful, knitted sweater.
If asked about it she would say that it was “very old”, and didn’t want to talk about it beyond that. It was obviously special to her since no one was ever allowed to have or wear it. There where also two old pillows that where just as beautiful.
One day the Museum of Gorenjska put her on exhibit… which was no surprise given that my grandparents where constantly making appearances in cultural institutions, and publications. I guess you could consider them cultural property of the country. Although, this time, the bar was raised in that some of the items were put on exhibit AND placed under property of the museum (museum’s collection).
Among these items where that old sweater and two pillows.
It was strange seeing something I used to play with as a child (the pillows) on display, permanently behind glass, in a museum.
Nevertheless, it was only until then that the story behind these colorful old things came out.

When in the camp she collected pieces of thread. She then made her own yarn by rolling, and tying together every scrap that she found.
You can’t imagine how long that took.
With the scraps she gathered she created something meticulously beautiful & colorful, in a colorless prison that was in favor of the complete opposite.

Zlata Volaric

There’s a lot that can be taken away from this story, I think.
A human is never truly a prisoner, and creating is what people naturally do. It makes the world unrealistic, dark situations bearable, and life beautiful.
I think there’s a genius in all of us (either dormant, or realized), and it shines in our stubbornness to surpass obstacles and stand against circumstances.
Just to be colorful, brilliant works of art.

Zlata Volaric

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  1. […] A long time ago I wrote this post about what my grandmother created when she was in a concentration … If anything, perhaps I can offer this now, and it may provide courage in these dark times. I go […]

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