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Lifestyle

April 24, 2014

Survival through art

Poet to talk about how art raises the spirit

Rhina Espaillat met many survivors of the Holocaust when she was growing up in New York and was often impressed by their strength of mind.

“I was always surprised to meet people who came through the Holocaust not only physically whole, but mentally whole,” she said. “It’s utterly amazing that they came through with their love of life intact.”

Espaillat, an accomplished poet and Newburyport resident, will discuss the expression of that spirit in the work of poet and painter Yala Korwin at Aviv Centers for Living in Peabody on Monday.

Her talk will be followed by a short, Academy Award-winning documentary, “The Lady in Number 6,” about a concert pianist who survived internment in a concentration camp and lived to 109.

The event is being held on Holocaust Remembrance Day and is part of a program in which Aviv is encouraging Holocaust survivors to provide any information about lost or missing family members.

They will forward those names to Yad Vashem, the international center for Holocaust remembrance in Jerusalem, which is trying to create a complete list of victims.

Korwin, a native of Poland who lives in New York, lost her parents and a sister to Nazi persecution.

“She was fortunate enough to be blond and fair, so she could pass as Christian,” Espaillat said. “Her husband was an engineer, and he passed as an ethnic Pole during the war, hidden among the Germans.”

Korwin started writing at an early age in her native language but has written in English for most of her career. She also translates poetry from Polish to English.

She has published two books, “To Tell the Story” and “Crossroads,” and two chapbooks, “If Bones and Dust Could Speak” and “Cave Poem.”

“I’m going to read poems that reflect the bitterness of those days when she lost family in Europe,” she said. “They are strong and musical, and her inspiration goes right through the walls of language.”

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