INT: Today is 25th of November 2015, and I’m here to speak with Geraldine Shenkin, who is going to tell me a little about her mother, Mrs Marianne Grant.
Geraldine describes her mother’s background in Czechoslovakia by reading from Marianne Grant’s autobiography. She goes on to talk about her mother’s great love for drawing and painting.
Geraldine, we want to begin by reading a little from your mother’s own story and in her own words.
GS: This is from her book. She made a book called, “I Knew I Was Painting For My Life” which includes the Holocaust art works, by my mum, Marianne Grant. She starts by saying her story.
“My name is Marianne Grant, nee Herman, nicknamed Mousie, from Prague, that’s in Czechoslovakia [Czech Republic]. My father came from a small village, Czirima, near Szadek in the Sudetenland, North Bohemia. He was the son of hop farmers from a family of ten children. From the age of eight he lodged with a cantor in Prague in order to get a proper education. He became the foreign exchange manager of the Bohemian Union Bank in Prague. He met my mother, the youngest of three sisters, when he was sent to a branch in Bielsko, which after the First World War became part of Poland. She was the daughter of a cantor, Maurice Rosner, and his wife Cecilia from Moravia. My mother, Anna, was a milliner and she married my father, in 1920. They settled in Prague, and I was born in September 1921.
We lived in the centre of the town in a small flat for seven or eight years, then we moved to new flats built by the bank for their employees, near vast beautiful parks”.
INT: And, I gather from what you’ve read, that your mother had quite an easy life, before the war changed everything.
GS: Yes…she went to a primary school and after, when she went on to girls’ high school, she was sent to a private English grammar school. And then later on after much persuasion by her father’s three sisters and her mother, her father relented and gave his permission for her to attend the famous Rote Schule of fashion and graphic design in Prague.
INT: So, your mother was always interested in drawing and art?
GS: She loved drawing, in her spare time, loved to do little sketches all the way through her childhood and in her teenage days with children, wherever she went, she liked to draw and she loved nature study. All lovely things she liked to draw or paint.
INT: And why was her father not keen on her doing this, at first anyway; do you know?
GS: I’m not really very sure to be honest, why. He probably wanted her to go down a more educational route. I think she was pretty bright. She spoke six languages fluently later in life and he probably thought that she could do something, maybe become a lawyer or a doctor and not go into the art world.