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The autograph book above was donated to the museum by Yola Schneider (nee Rawdin). It was presented to her new, at the school she attended in Piastów, Poland following liberation in 1945.  The book, which records the well wishes of classmates and friends, accompanied Yola to Warsaw, Berlin, Aschau, Munich and later to Australia. It is, in essence, a map of her post-war experience; documenting both the complexity of displacement and the possibilities lay bare by hope and friendship.

Each of the entries is unique and personalised in some way, either in its use of drawing, language, script or the familiarities of Yola’s nicknames.

In May 1945, a fellow classmate in Piastów wrote:

For Remembrance,

Love is a wonderful flower. Envy is poisoned plant.

Beware, girl like fire; it should not creep into your heart.

For the chatterbox,

Tysia G. 

The reference to ‘chatterbox’ acknowledges Yola’s propensity to talk. In hiding for two years, she was often left for the entire day alone in a room, waiting for her Mother to return from working as a housemaid. The loneliness, curtailed somewhat by her library books, found its eventual outlet:

“I was very talkative when I started to go to school. I never stopped talking because I was sitting by myself for two years with nobody to talk to, no children to play with. So when I started to talk…I never stopped; I was forever getting into trouble” (Shoah Foundation Testimony).

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The messages vary in sentiment; some remind Yola to be wary of the new and alien world, yet most are optimistic and convey wisdom of experience far beyond that expected of children. These children however, were survivors of extraordinary times; each with their own story, many of which were not yet committed to history at the time they wrote in Yola’s book.

Another entry from Piastów reads:

For Remembrance,

Laugh amongst people; cry only in hiding; be light dancing, but never in life!

For nice, although talkative, Jola

Danka Przybysiu

In this entry, as in many, Yola’s classmate uses illustration to convey memory and embed remembrance. To be remembered is a pervasive theme, particularly amidst the confusion of loss, and struggle to rebuild lives. In many instances, the childlike illustrations juxtapose the gravity of the written message.

Author: Curator, Rachel Mensforth.