The shoes in this drawing represent the infamous pile of shoes at Auschwitz, where Sarah’s grandfather was a prisoner f The shoes in this drawing represent the infamous pile of shoes at Auschwitz, where Sarah’s grandfather was a prisoner for 15 months. His prisoner number, 150302, is faded in the background. Courtesy, Sarah Wiernicki
"Imprisonment" is a drawing of Sarah’s grandfather, John Wiernicki, as a child. The barbed wire symbolizes the restrictiveness of his childhood and young adult life as a prisoner. Courtesy, Sarah Wiernicki
Sarah Wiernicki’s grandfather, John Wiernicki, was a member of the Polish Resistance. This drawing entitled "Hidden" captures the emotions and conflicts during his experiences of hiding in the forest from the Nazis. Courtesy, Sarah Wiernicki
Running through Dec. 31, 2009, “Sarah Wiernicki: Art for My Grandfather” is the work of local artist Sarah Wiernicki, who was inspired by her grandfather’s life as a Polish resistance fighter and his subsequent experiences in the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald-Ohrdruf.
In 1943, Polish underground fighter John Wiernicki was captured and beaten by the Gestapo, then shipped to Auschwitz. In his chilling memoir, Wiernicki later detailed “life” in the infamous death camp and his battle to survive, physically and morally, in the face of utter evil.
In 2006, she traveled to Auschwitz with her grandfather, and together they walked under the infamous iron gate bearing the words Arbeit Macht Frei. “The most profound moment of my trip was when my grandfather’s reality became my own,” she said. It was then she understood to what extent her Polish heritage was so important in defining her identity.
One image from Sarah Wiernicki’s recollection of his experience called “Hidden” represents a period when her grandfather was hiding in the forest. The image won her a scholarship from Culture Shapers in Houston. Her image “The Shoes” won second place and a scholarship at the Woodlands Waterway Festival in the mixed-media category.
The exhibit, on view in the Museum’s Laurie and Milton Boniuk Resource Center and Library, includes six pieces of Sarah Wiernicki’s work. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The library is closed Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.
Sarah Wiernicki is a recent graduate from the John Cooper School in The Woodlands. This fall, she is attending Carnegie Mellon University. John Wiernicki, an artist who now lives in Maryland, is the author of the book “War in the Shadow of Auschwitz: Memoirs of a Polish Resistance Fighter and Survivor of the Death Camps.” He donated a signed copy to the Museum during the exhibit’s opening reception.