13 September 2008

Roots travel: What I did on my summer vacation

Professor Larry Volk of Endicott College (Massachusetts) shared his summer trip in the Boston Globe's three-part series on what three scholars did during the summer.

Volk went to France to learn more about his Holocaust survivor mother, interned there during World War II.

The professor of visual communications has been working for three years on a project incorporating old photoggraphis, digital imagery and a loose narrative of biography and family history.

"It doesn't necessarily go from beginning to end, but it allows me to trace the story of my mother's history of immigration and her history in the United States," said Volk, whose work has been included in collections at the University of Virginia and Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham, among others.

The exhibit, "A Story of Rose's," will be presented in January at the Rubin-Frankel Gallery at Boston University's Florence and Chafetz Hillel House.

"Going to France was pivotal because my mother's youngest sister is there, and I hadn't had a chance to talk to her directly about events during the war," Volk said. He also went to the town where she'd been interned, and was able to locate a man who knew his mother in the camp.

"It helped clarify a lot of questions that I had," Volk said.

His mother rarely spoke about the war years. Volk's Jewish grandparents were born in Turkey, but lived in Cuba - which at that time had a close relationship with the United States - when his mother and brother were born, and in France when their youngest daughter was born.

When Nazi Germany occupied France, Volk's grandparents and youngest aunt were allowed to return to Turkey, but the Germans held his teenage mother and uncle because they held Cuban passports and might be of value for a potential prisoner exchange with the United States.

Volk says that as a photographer you go out and learn about things by capturing imagines and exploring the world. This way, he explores his own history,

"As a photographer you go out and learn about things by photographing. You investigate the world," Volk said. "In this case, it's a way for me to explore my family history. It's about trying to extend the story to people and get them involved in it."

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