She Was Alone - the Reconstruction of a Wartime Journey
a performative lecture by Michelle Levy curated by Monika Fabijanksa, at La MaMa Galleria
Presented on Thursday, January 23, 2020
Michelle Levy shares her recent experiences in Poland working on PAULINA, an experiment in storytelling that investigates identity, memory, and place, by calling on the past to reimagine one woman’s story of survival. PAULINA is a collaboration between Levy (New York) and Patrycja Dołowy (Warsaw).
The 1945 witness testimony of Paulina Hirsch describes the survival experience of a Jewish woman living and moving throughout Nazi-occupied Poland. One of the thousands of testimonies taken by Poland’s Central Jewish Historical Committee at the end of World War II, it is an official, impersonal account - the woman behind the text remains a mystery. An introductory note states that she began the war with a husband and daughter, but by the end, she was alone.
What happens when one woman’s account is explored in-depth in the very places where it happened? In the fall of 2018, artist Michelle Levy relocated to Poland to spend nine months investigating the testimony of Paulina Hirsch. Working together with Warsaw-based artist/writer Patrycja Dołowy who first translated Paulina’s testimony for Michelle, the ultimate goal was to physically retrace Paulina’s wartime movement across Poland and Ukraine. Guided by happenstance, the two women embarked on a journey, following Paulina’s path to see what they would find. Little did they know they had entered into a web of events that had been unfolding over decades…