26 - Black Sky Falling


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“In early November 1942, Mania and I made our way to the village of Grabowka, where we told people that we were Polish Catholic farm girls who had been separated from our family after our farm was taken over by Folksdeutsche. The night after we arrived, I had a dream that my mother came to get me, running and pulling me along. “Why are we running?,” I asked her. She said, “Because the black sky is falling, and when it reaches the ground, we will die.” When I looked back, black pieces of clouds were falling to the earth.”

Embroidery and fabric collage, 1988.
36-3/16″W x 37-1/4″H.

Narration by Esther's daughter, Bernice Steinhardt

00:00 / 01:59

Transcript of Narration

In this picture, my mother describes a dream she had the night she and Mania arrived in the village of Grabowka.

After they left Dudzinska’s house Esther and Mania decided to go to Grabowka, another village where they weren’t known. By the time they got there, though, it was late in the day, and Esther was very afraid of being caught in the forest after dark. Finally she told Mania that they were going to go to the sheriff’s house and ask for his help. Mania was terrified at the prospect, but my mother said that if they were found in the forest people would know they were Jewish. She said, “If we’re going to pretend to be Yuzha and Marisha, we have to act as they would.” So they did.

They went to the sheriff’s house, and they told him their story. He agreed to keep Mania to help his mother with the housekeeping, and he found a place for my mother with an elderly farmer whose wife was bedridden and who needed someone to help him with the animals and housework. The farmer was very skeptical of my mother’s abilities at first. She was barely five feet tall and she looked young for her fifteen years. But eventually he came to be very proud of her and to look after her.

On that first night in Grabowka my mother dreamed that her mother came for her, pulling her out of the house and running. When she asked her mother why they were running, her mother said, “Because the black sky is falling. And when it reaches the ground we’ll die.” And when my mother looked back she saw black pieces of clouds falling to the ground. This picture, along with the picture of her grandfather that appears shortly in the exhibit, were the first pictures that my mother made when she resumed her story pictures in the late 1980s. Both of them are of dreams that were extremely powerful and in their own way instrumental, providing her with both warning and comfort.

​Transcript prepared by the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science Docent Association.