THE STORY OF THE SQUARE
Quilt 3, Square 14
Artist: Ruth Wassermann Segal
THOUGHTS WHILE WORKING ON MY KINDERTRANSPORT QUILT
The very last image I remember when I left Berlin for England on the Kindertransport, April 18, 1939, was seeing my parents’ hats and handkerchiefs waving. The faces were blurred through my own tears.
I found myself in a train compartment together with my older sister Anneliese and some other children. There were several hundred children on our transport. We all were stunned by the reality of our separation from our parents. We all had hopes for an early reunion. There was a hush with sobs as the train pulled out, and we waved our good-byes through the open train window.
As my mother packed my suitcase with all new clothes and two pair of shoes, one pair larger for me to grow into, she included a little tennis skirt. “In England they play tennis” she said, giving this journey the atmosphere of summer camp. This illusion was a way to find the strength and ease the pain of separation. The thrust was to save the lives of their children. Parents, especially the mothers, showed immeasurable strength. We were young. I was twelve at the time. Our lives took a dramatic change. Suddenly our childhood had ended. Upon our arrival in England my sister and I were separated. She was made a domestic servant at the age of sixteen.
My fate was not unique. It was shared with many refugee children. Being together in Hostels we became family, looked after each other, and learned from one another. The seven years of war was a turbulent impressionable time for us teenagers. We stuck together, worked together, and formed bonds of friendship firm up to this day.
I included birds with two thoughts in mind. We often sang the German folk song “Kommt ein Vogel geflogen...” which speaks of a bird bringing a letter from the mother, but the child cannot return with the bird to the mother. That’s how it was for us. Birds can fly past political boundaries. The white dove is a symbol of Peace. It is my hope then, and is my hope now.
I was fortunate that my mother survived. We were re-united after the war in the United States.
She had gone through traumatic times herself. I became an artist, and began studying in the U.S. after my third daughter was born. My medium is watercolor, graphics, textiles and acrylic. Finding art to be cathartic for me I began to study art therapy.
My husband Paul and I will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. We have five grandchildren. Life continues. Let it be peaceful.
Ruth Wassermann Segal