AnnushkaAnnushka 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.
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.
|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.