The Stories They Told Me

I am the first generation of my family in the United States. We come from an area right on the border between Austria and Hungary. My family survived 2 world wars in limbo between two evils: the Nazis and the Communists. As a young child, they wanted me to know how to survive in the face of hell. They tried to save me by telling me stories. My grandmother warned me where to hide when soliders come to the door, and not to ever peek out no matter what I heard outside. My aunt told me stories of beatings from both the Nazis and the Communists to protect the Jews and Christians hidden in our cellar. My uncle told me about the scars on my grandfather after he was forced into 3 different concentration camps and the Gulag for resisting ideology he found abhorrent. My mother told me of losing her favorite doll at age 3 as she ran through a solider's gunfire to get to Austria in '56 and how disappointed they all were to discover the streets of America were not paved in gold.
But because I was a child, they left out details. Instead, providing just enough of a suggestion to let an active imagination fill in the terrifying blanks. As a young child, I envisioned these stories through the old war and noir movies my father liked to watch: dark, disturbing, and sinister made all the more terrifying because of what they do not show.

These are a series of pencil and charcoal drawings on paper depicting the stories they told me as they play in my mind.