Follow My Footprints is a long-term project that documents the cultural landscape of my grandmother’s displacement as a result of the Holocaust. In 1939, at the age of 14, Hana Dubova left Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for Denmark, whom in collaboration with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, had agreed to take in a group of 150 Czech Jewish teenagers between the ages of 14 and 16. She would be the only person in her family who would survive the war with the exception of some distant relatives.
During the many years that would follow, Hana found herself on the run, constantly adapting to new environments, anxieties, and cultural norms. Beginning in October 2014, I will retrace this journey, documenting her travels between the years of 1939 and 1952 — from the time that she said goodbye to her loving parents and younger brother in Czechoslovakia to when she got married in New York City and started her own family.
Throughout this project, I will be basing myself in Poland which is not a place where she would travel through, but still holds significance to our family’s story as that is where her parents and younger brother perished in concentration camps. From there, I will travel through the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden. In the summer of 2015, I will return to the United States and cross the country by train, continuing to follow her travels after her immigration to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1950. I will be using the same modes of transportation as she did and visiting the communities which became home throughout those defining years.
I am looking to document the cultural landscape of her years on the road without a national identity, without a passport, and without a family. I am hoping to come out of this year-long project and have a better understanding of how displacement influences culture in America and throughout our greater global community. This is not just a piece of my history, but rather it is a significant part of my present day self.
For over five years, I have been collecting and organizing Hana’s photographs, documents and writings, including an oral narrative which she shared with me during the final years of her life. My documentation of this journey will be juxtaposed with the extensive amount of information that she has provided about her escape and her life as a result of it, offering a window into how the past and the present are intertwined.
This project begins 75 years after she embarked on a journey into the unknown.