Monday, January 26, 2009

Introducing Slovenia Artist: Milena Soukal

I am deeply touched by the tumultuous life of artist, Milena Soukal. So much so that I have to share her life story that is translated into her painting. I am especially moved by this particular piece called Fear. I will never understand the pain and fear she has gone through.

Read her bios below and you would understand what I mean.

83 years ago Milena Soukal entered this world in Slovenia. She lived there with her mother, father, 2 sisters and her brother until the peace was disrupted with WWII. Milena was a grade school teacher who taught grades 1-12. As singers and musicians she and her two sisters had a successful radio show in Slovenia. Her life took a horrible turn when the powers to be (America, England & Russia) decided that Slovenia was to be turn over to the Communists in 1945.

Her family, being strong anti-communists, was in trouble. She and her siblings tried to convince her mother to escape with them to Austria. They failed, but her mother encouraged them to try it by themselves. Her two sisters left first, and then Milena and her brother fled together.
It was a terrible trek, under Russian gun fire and siege, no cars, just horses and carts, people and horses being shot all around them, they spent 3 days in a mountain pass, because the roads were jammed with thousands of escaping Germans, Serbs, Italians and all others fleeing the communists. They hid in a tunnel jammed with others fleeing to freedom. Chaos abounded, all languages mixed together.

They finally got into Austria, but not to freedom as we Americans know it. They were met by her two sisters and all were put into a refugee camp where Milena lived for 5 long years with thousands and thousands of other refugees. At first in a big field, no food, shelter, nothing. Eventually they organized themselves. They found canvas, made a tent; at first food was made from the dead horses and mules. It is here that she met her husband in this camp, they married, and two of her 4 children were born in that camp.

While in the camp, the Americans, English and Russian were being besieged by the Austrians to take these refugees. Finally the Russians agreed to take11, 000 anti-communists out of the camp and word got back to Milena that all 11,000 were shot to death by Slovenian Communists!

At last the Slovenia League from America stepped in. Milena, her husband and 2 babies were some of the chosen to come to America. Penniless, they were transported to Germany where they waited 6 more weeks until they flown by the Army to New York. Here they were met by more people from the Slovenia League who gave them $5.00 in cash which Milena said they had to repay once they were working. Other people helped them with food, clothing and getting an apartment. Her husband got a job as a janitor. After 4 years, they moved to Chicago where he worked in a steel mill. Their family grew during this time, when 2 more sons were born. During their life in Chicago and as the boys grew older Milena began work at Sears Roebuck.

Milena and her husband worked hard, saved and eventually bought a home, they raised 4 fine sons, even were able to buy a small farm in Munfordville in 1985 as a summer place.

In 1978 & in 1980 her art won first place in one of Sears & Roebuck’s art contests. An accomplished poet Milena also won several awards during the time she lived in Chicago. Milena is also a talented musician and singer.

Her husband died in 1989 and Milena decided she needed the peace and tranquility of Munfordville to continue her art work. Much to her 4 son’s dismay she left the hustle and bustle of Chicago moved full time to their summer place in 1990.

An avid gardener, she maintains her place with the beauty that perseveres through all the travails she has endured. A few years ago, her 33 year old son was cutting down a tree for her when it fell on him and killed him adding another chilling and sad event for Milena.

Milena’s artwork continues each day. She belongs to the South Central Kentucky Arts & Crafts Guild. When she is not painting, she is gardening, or crocheting many items she has for sale or gives to her grandchildren.

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