Extended Captions

Annushka Varšavskienė (December 12, 1895-c. September 20, 1944), standing outside the Jewish children's sanatorium that she built in the Lithuanian spa town of Birštonas some time after she moved to Kaunas from Berlin in 1923.

Frida & Bella
Frida and Bella, Annushka Varšavskienė’s two daughters from her second marriage to Leiba Varšavskis, posing together at an unknown location in about 1939. Almost nothing is known about Bella, except that she was born in Kaunas in 1927, and that she appears with a big smile on her face in all but one of Annushka’s surviving photographs. Frida was born in Berlin on September 25, 1922, where she lived at Philippstraße 21 until the family moved to Kaunas in 1923. As well as several pieces of information that were handed down through the surviving members of Annushka’s family in Canada and the United States, ongoing archival research in Lithuania has unearthed two of Frida’s school reports from when she was 16 and 17, which testify to the fact that her spoken and written English were both very good, and that she was carrying on the family tradition and receiving above-average marks for choral singing. Along with Annushka, Frida and Bella were deported to the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia, where all three were murdered during its liquidation in September 1944.

Annushka Varšavskienė’s favourite sister, Masha Roskies (1906- 1999), in Zurich in 1937. Masha, who emigrated to Canada with her Białystok-born husband, Leo, and two young children in 1940, is the only known member of Annushka’s large family to have survived the Holocaust. Of Masha’s four children, two, David G. Roskies and Ruth Wisse, are today internationally renowned Jewish scholars. In 2008, David, the current Professor of Jewish Literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, published Yiddishlands, a ‘memoir’ about his family’s life in prewar Europe, in which Annushka features in several chapters. At the time of writing, a second edition of Yiddishlands is awaiting publication, and will contain previously unknown information that was made possible thanks to the work that was carried out during the Lost & Found project.

Annushka Varšavskienė’s niece, Ruth, ice-skating with an unknown man in the Romanian city of Cernăuți (today Chernivtsi in Ukraine) in 1938 or 1939. Born in Cernăuți on May 13, 1936, Ruth, who today is the renowned American Jewish scholar, Ruth Wisse, was the eldest daughter of Annushka’s favourite sister, Masha Roskies, and is the only person featured in Annushka’s photographs who is still known to be alive. Ruth, who emigrated to Canada with her parents and her elder brother, Benjamin, when she was four, was the first member of Annushka’s surviving family to learn about the discovery of the photographs after Saulė Valiūnaitė wrote her an email on March 31, 2016. Printed in large letters on a wall, the words ‘My heart pounds as I write you because of course this is our family’ that Ruth wrote in her reply to Saulė and Richard the following day, were the first thing that visitors saw on entering the Lost & Found exhibition at the Yeshiva University Museum in New York in October 2018.

Grisha & Nadia
Almost every member of Annushka Varšavskienė’s large family, among them at least nine of her brothers and sisters, perished during the Holocaust, including her brother, Grisha Matz (far left, 1899-1941), who among many other achievements was one of the founding members of the Vilna/Wilno branch of the Jewish humanitarian organisation, TOZ, of which he also became director in 1935. Along with Annushka and her husband, Leiba, pictured on the right, Grisha, who was murdered just a few days after Germany occupied Lithuania at the start of Operation Barbarossa, features in this intimate and un-dated family portrait with his wife, Nadia. Research by David Fishman, professor of Jewish history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York and the author of the 2017 book, The Book Smugglers, revealed the previously unknown fact that Nadia was an active member of the Paper Brigade, a group of Vilna Ghetto inmates who rescued thousands of priceless Jewish documents and other valuable artefacts under the noses of the Germans during the first two years of the occupation. Nadia, who survived the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943, is believed to have been murdered at the Majdanek extermination camp in Poland during the autumn of 1943. The location of the photograph remains a mystery, although the armchair on the left is remarkably similar to one that’s featured in a photograph that was taken in Grisha and Nadia’s apartment in Vilna on February 14, 1930.

Unidentified Children & Teenagers
The Lithuanian inscription on the reverse side of this photograph translates as, ‘Birštonas. July 24, 1938. Masquerade at children’s sanatorium.’ In March 2016, the Lithuanian historian Saulė Valiūnaitė used this seemingly innocuous image as the starting point for a series of internet searches that would lead via a name in a 1930s telephone directory to the discovery of a photograph of Annushka Varšavskienė sitting among various members of the Engel Choir, a group of mostly amateur Lithuanian Jewish singers that Annushka founded in Kaunas in 1927. Of the 67 people that are featured in the photograph of the choir, only five, including Annushka, are named. The other 62 remain anonymous. As well as representing Lithuania at the 1934 Levant Fair in Tel Aviv, the Engel Choir would often perform live on Lithuanian radio. They also made four recordings for the London-based Columbia Gramophone Company, of which two feature Annushka singing the lead parts. Tracked down in state archives in Lithuania in 2017 and Israel in 2019, all four recordings can be heard here.

Annushka Varšavskienė and her second husband, Leiba, posing in their finest clothes at the exclusive spa town of Bad Kissingen in Bavaria, on or around September 2, 1921, when the couple were staying at the town's Hotel Löwinsky. Like many other cultured and wealthy Lithuanian Jews at the time, Annushka, who studied music at a private academy in Berlin between 1919 and 1923, appears to have been a serious and committed Germanophile. One theory is that Bad Kissingen, a town that boasted several concert halls as well as a famous Jewish children’s sanatorium before it was forced to close by the National Socialists, provided the inspiration behind her decision to build a children’s sanatorium in the Lithuanian spa town of Birštonas, a popular resort where, thanks to documents that were discovered at the Lithuanian Theatre, Music & Cinema Museum in 2018, it’s also known that she sang extracts from operas by Rossini and traditional Hebrew hymns on more than one occasion at Birštonas’ most exclusive concert hall. Annushka would have been unable to satisfy her many dreams and aspirations without the support of the ‘handsome and virile’ Leiba, a fabulously wealthy (and considerably older) businessman from a shtetl near Kaunas who, according to family legend, created a scandal when he simultaneously met and swept Annushka off her feet at a party in Vilna in about 1916 that had been thrown to celebrate his engagement to another woman. Documents found in the archives at the United States Memorial Museum in Washington DC reveal that 61-year-old Leiba was arrested by the Kovno Ghetto Police on April 22, 1942. His final fate remains unknown.