A Personal Tribute to Arthur Szyk’s daughter, Alexandra Szyk Bracie (1922-2016)

10 USHMM, Washington DC, 2002_withcaption

Alexandra was born on March 19, 1922 in Lodz, Poland, the second child of Arthur Szyk and Julia Likierman.  Her brother George, who fought for the Free French during WW II died in the late 1950s in New York.  Alexandra died on August 18, 2016—94 years old—and 94 years young. On Sunday, I officiated at her funeral in New York at the New Montefiore cemetery in Pinelawn Memorial Park, Long Island where she was buried at the foot of her father in the family plot of the Forest Hills Jewish Center section. Alexandra Szyk Bracie was my friend for over 25 years, we loved Arthur Szyk together and we loved each other. Our journey has been an endless conversation of mutual admiration and respect and joy. She was a lady of boundless spirit, filled with youthfulness to the end which exuded from her wide smile, her uplifting voice, her intellectual curiosity, and her contagious enthusiasm. “Irv, tell me dear,” (about your family, about recent events with Arthur Szyk in the world, about the next exhibit, about how I am doing), and with each response came another smile, a laugh, and more questions. This was our routine during each of my visits to her Highland Beach, Florida condominium and then in the last few years at her New York apartment.  She moved to Manhattan to be closer to her daughters, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren… and she was so happy about that.  She was predeceased by her husband, Joseph Braciejowski (she was married to Joe in November, 1941, one month before Pearl Harbor…she was 19 years old…Rabbi Stephen S. Wise officiated!).

17 DHM, Berlin 2008_withcaption

Here was a lady of keen intellect, of class and charm, of dignity and grace. One would never see Alexandra (some called her Alice or Alicia—her Hebrew name was Miriam) without her lipstick and her hair properly done, and always dressed just right for the occasion…. I will never forget the evening when she wore the most elegant cobalt blue dress for the opening of the Szyk exhibition in Berlin in August 2008…. She was stunning at age 87—greeted by museum directors and curators, diplomats and the press as an international celebrity (her picture appeared on the front page of a leading German newspaper across from Madonna!)… 13 DHM Mini 4 by 3, Berlin 2008_withcaptionin Berlin she sat at the right side of the Director of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) while he hosted a Queen’s dinner in her honor… Yes, much of course had to do with the fact she was Arthur Szyk’s daughter, but she became the center of attention on her own… in Lodz and Krakow in 2005 I witnessed her speaking in her native Polish—greeting journalists, filmmakers, and community leaders, while charming the US Ambassador to Poland at a July 4th reception gala in his Warsaw home…in Washington, DC she was honored by The Arthur Szyk Society and The Taube Foundation at a Four Seasons reception in conjunction with the 2002 opening of the exhibition “Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM)…at the time, it was Hadassah Lieberman, our honored guest speaker, who was honored to meet Alexandra. And to hear her speak her impeccable French during our travels together was to picture her as a young girl growing up in Paris with her Polish nursemaid Monika in her family home, on the estate of her father’s patron and gallery owner Auguste Decour.

Madonna and Bracie_withcaption

Alexandra loved life, embraced all of it… she referred to the great artist lovingly and formally as “Father”… from his diary accounts he loved her dearly… postponing all activities when she was ill as a child…  and cherishing her until his death in 1951.  Alexandra preserved his legacy, giving public talks, lending artwork for exhibitions, donating artwork to the permanent collections of the USHMM and the Library of Congress, the DHM and the Society of Illustrators, documents to YIVO and the New York Public Library… all while creating a legacy of her own.

18 DHM, Berlin 2008_withcaption

Alexandra taught me some wonderful life lessons, and her life intertwined so preciously with mine—she, more than anyone, has been my partner in Arthur Szyk’s resurrection during my lifetime… but more than anything else… she taught me a spirit of optimism, of looking ahead, illuminating the past while embracing the future… I shall continue the journey with deep thanks and appreciation for a truly irreplaceable friend…

Irvin Ungar

August 24, 2016

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