Anita has been working on a project focused on specific archival family documents which are part of a much larger story about forced displacement, identity, memory and exile. She has done intensive research into the 'Kindertransports' which were rescue operations of Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia by train to England in 1938 and 1939. Britain had agreed to accept children at risk under the age of 17, so long as they travelled without parents, had a £50 re-emigration deposit (£3000 in today's terms which often came through anonymous donations), and a placement identified. Aware of the growing danger, many Czech Jewish parents were desperate to secure places for their children. One such Kindertransport from Prague on 18 April 1939 carried two young boys age 15 and 13, Anita's father and uncle.
|Documentary work for 'Letters from Lilian' by Anita Grosz|
The boys travelled by train to Holland and boat and train to Liverpool Street Station, London then progressed onto Warborough, Oxfordshire where they would be farmhands. They had been 'sponsored' by Lilian Bowes-Lyon (the Queen Mother's first cousin), an aristocrat, published poet, and spinster. Thus began the life of two urban boys in rural, depressed England. Anita's research for this photo-documentary series was initiated by letter's from Lilian Bowes-Lyon to her father and uncle, found after her fathers death in 2001. The letter's are from the period of those first ten years, their formative years. Lilian Bowes-Lyon died in 1949. The return correspondence from her father to Lilian has never been found, but the investigations to find it or potentially re-create it, has artistically driven Anita's work in interesting and varied ways.
|Doorways Series by Anita Grosz|
The main body of work on display in this small solo show are images of the doorways where Lilian Bowes-Lyon lived and the letters from her father would have been received. The present day images of these front doors still reflect the well-healed upper class living standards of 1940's England that Lilian would have experienced. The photographs are laid over Lilian's faded letters, undecipherable other than a date, a signature or a brief word or two, and printed on thin, faded parchment paper. The large doorway prints, of which there are several from Oxford and London, are accompanied in this exhibition by enlarged photographs of the young Hans Grosz. One is of a teenager on the farm, with an air of uncertainty behind the smiling face; another a striding, confident young man ready to face the world. The story between these two images, a young man's development to adulthood through uncertain times in a foreign land, with the guidance and support of a mature aristocrat, is only half told. Anita's art seeks to find a voice for her father and bring to light the rest of the story.