You always hope when you do a story that the people in the story will be happy with it.
Thank you notes are some of the most kind and thoughtful gestures. I’m always touched when I receive one. The thought that someone took the time to sit down and write a note and then to go to the trouble of dropping it in the mail, rather than just dashing off a quick e-mail. Every time I receive a note like this I think, “People can be so nice.”
Thank you notes are also extremely personal, but this note was so unique and beautiful and totally befitting the person who sent it that, after much deliberation, I feel compelled to share it here on this site.
This handmade card, which Yanina copied from a photograph of her as a ballerina in Paris that she then watercolored, transforming the photocopy into a unique and personal piece of art.
Yanina is a consummate artist–as a dancer, as a writer, as a teacher, and as an artist. It is for those reasons that I wanted to post this note here to share her art with her friends and fans who have sent me notes about how Yanina has touched and influenced their lives, and for the readers of this site to learn more about this remarkable woman.
Some months back I did a story that aired on the April 2011 edition of KCRA’s Common Ground about Yanina Cywinska, a woman now in her eighties and living in Concord, California. When she was just a young girl growing up in Poland her father, a physician, began smuggling food to the starving Jews barricaded inside the hideous War-saw ghetto. Her father was caught by the Nazis and, as punishment, both he and his entire family were herded onto a train with the Jews he was trying to help and they were all transported directly to Auschwitz.
Yanina was not supposed to live out the week. On arriving at Auschwitz, she and her family were marched into the showers, where they were not greeted with hot water but with Zyklon B poison gas. All of her family was killed that day. Amazingly, Yanina did not die. The women work crew removing the bodies discovered Yanina, revived her, and told her to get on her feet and begin working like one of them — that was the only way she would live for another hour or another day. As long as she could work, she might live.
Even then, on three more occasions, the Nazis tried to kill her, with pistols and machine guns. Each time, against all odds, she survived. All of this is rivetingly detailed in Yanina’s memoir The Sugar Plum Nut. Yanina kept this story bottled inside her for sixty years, then she poured all of this out of her into the pages of this book.
Again, I’m so honored that Yanina shared a bit of her story with me to put on TV. Perhaps, for the sake of history, I should post all of her interview. I’ll look into that. If you’d like to see Yanina telling her story, please send me an e-mail.