Litvak painter Samuel Bak grateful to Vilniusites for his saved life
Internationally-renowned Litvak painter Samuel Bak, back in Vilnius for the opening of his museum, on Wednesday expressed his gratitude to residents of his hometown who helped him survive the Holocaust.
Speaking at the Vilnius Gaon Jewish State Museum on the eve of the opening, Bak said that it was his fifth visit to Lithuania since he returned to Vilnius for the first time in 2001.
The painter, who spent his childhood in the Vilna Ghetto and survived the Holocaust, said that this time he came to Vilnius not only to open his first museum worldwide, but also to express his gratitude to the "three saints", who "had the courage and will to risk their own lives to save others", for his saved life.
Bak also said that he was glad to learn after a conversation with Lithuanian Education and Science Minister Jurgita Petrauskienė that his memoirs had been included into the history curriculum at Lithuanian schools.
"I understood that the book I wrote about my memories of Vilnius is in schools in Lithuania and that children have an opportunity to understand how the world looked in the eyes of a child 60-70 years back," he said.
The Samuel Bak Museum will be opened in the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius.
Thirty-five 37 works of art reached the museum back in 2011, when an exhibition called "Samuel Bak. Stations in Life" was opened. Under an agreement with the Boston-based Pucker Gallery, the works were given to the museum on a long-term lease basis. It was agreed last year that the 37 works would be donated to the Vilna Gaon Museum once the first exposition space was opened and another 88 would be sent to Vilnius following the opening of a second space.
Anne Hall, the US ambassador to Vilnius, described the opening of the Samuel Bak Museum as "a milestone in the history of Lithuanian-US friendship".
The painter, who now lives in Boston, in the United States, will be named an honorary citizen of Vilnius on Wednesday evening.
The museum in Vilnius will remain the world's first and only museum of the painter for at least a year as there are plans to open a gallery of his paintings at the Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas, next year.
Born in Vilnius in 1933, Bak held his first exhibition in the Vilna Ghetto at the age of nine. Having survived the Holocaust, he immigrated to Israel and later lived in Western Europe. He studied art in Jerusalem and Paris.