TORONTO — Irene Greenbloom, who turned 100 years old on Sept. 28, says without hesitation that her artwork saved her life.
Irene Greenbloom holds a painting she painted of her father.
Born in Lodz, Poland, Greenbloom studied art in France before the war broke out and she was taken away to Auschwitz.
“I survived because the Nazis used me to make greeting cards.”
She also saved two other women, she said, because they helped her make the cards.
Greenbloom, who speaks Russian, Polish and French in addition to English, credits her art with helping her to carry on after she lost her first husband, seven-year-old son and parents in the Holocaust, and later when her second husband – who was saved by Oskar Schindler – died at age 62. She met him when she went back to Lodz after the war, looking for family.
“I always did art. It kept me alive,” says Greenbloom, who has two children – her eldest, a daughter, was born in Poland – and a 24-year-old grandson.
A resident of Baycrest’s Apotex Centre for about six years, she continued painting and creating pottery until the last couple of years, when her eyesight began failing.
Her room is decorated with her paintings, and she has a file folder filled with art that she hasn’t framed. Each work is signed “Irene.”
She says she’s especially proud of a painting of her father that she reproduced from a small photograph she was able to save throughout the war.
Greenbloom, who goes to her daughter’s home for dinner weekly, says she is always happy to eat there, “because she cooks delicious, low-fat meals – lots of vegetables and fruits. I get too many carbs here.”
She appreciates everything, she says. “I don’t complain, and I don’t let things get to me. There’s no point.
“I went through the war, but I don’t believe that all people were bad. A German person kept my husband alive. To be alive after the war is a miracle. I’m not bitter.”
After celebrating her birthday at three parties and attending a Baycrest concert where 300 people sang Happy Birthday to her, Greenbloom says that “suddenly I’m old.”