At the age 5, the parents of little Szmaya (Simon) took him from Warsaw to his grandfather in Juvenishki, a shtetl near Vilnius. There he discovered the hatas (little wooden houses), the inhabitants, the water carrier, Toive the milkman, and the horses which he loved to ride bareback, and even drawing.

Later he went to the Warsaw School of Fine Arts. He painted nature and portraits. To pay for his studies, he travelled to Russia to buy furs for a cousin who was a furrier. Simon gained great experience as a fur sorter.

At the age of 25 he went to Paris to further his painting practice. There at evening courses in French he met a young Polish lady Nechuma (Nadia) and married her. In 1933, I was born, their only child. They named me Natan. To provide for the family, Simon worked as a fur sorter. Soon Nadia opened a perfumery at Les Lilas, in the suburbs of Paris. When WWII broke out and the situation for Jews in Paris became unbearable, the family took refuge in Nice, which remained a nonoccupied zone for a while.

When the situation worsened further, I was sent with some cousins to the countryside. Simon and Nadia were hiding with other members of the family in a mountain village. They were

denounced, Nadia‘s father was murdered by a French policeman collaborating with the Germans. Nadia was deported to Auschwitz. Simon joined the guerrilla resistance movement where he stayed until the liberation.

At the end of the war, Nadia returned from deportation and recovered her store in the Lilas. In 1951, the family emigrated to Israel where Simon entered into a partnership with his brother-inlaw in a small metallurgical factory. Their business soon went bad and they had to close it. In 1955, at the invitation of a friend he moved to Montreal, Canada, and worked as a fur sorter there.

In 1959, Simon developed an allergy to fur which severely affected his eyes and had to stop working. Seeing him depressed, Nadia bought him 3 canvases, some brushes and tubes with

paint and reminded him that when she met him he was a painter. At that moment Simon was reading works by Sholem Aleichem and spontaneously began to paint his memories from the shtetl in the naïve manner, remembering the way he saw it as a child. Encouraged by the warm welcome of his new occupation, he painted until he had enough paintings to hold an exhibition at the Montreal Young Men’s Hebrew Assosciation.

Then, in 1960, he went to Mexico together with Nadia where I was organising the Mexican Museum of Film on Art. He held his second exhibition at the Centro Deportivo and was invited to show his works at two other Mexican galleries.

Throughout the ten years that they spent in the USA, Simon painted and Nadia organised exhibitions. In 1962, they returned to Israel where Simon found a studio in Safed and became a member of the artists’ colony. For many years they kept travelling between Safed in summer and New York in winter. During the last 22 years of his life Simon became an accomplished painter. He died in 1982 at the age of 79 and was buried at the Safed cemetery.

Simon had tirelessly narrated stories about the daily life in the shtetl full of lovers, weddings, births, holidays, musicians, dancers, markets, blessings for the new moon and various figures, and the entire touching universe that he drew and painted with love. In Safed he found his second shtetl with its inhabitants and tremendously picturesque alleyways. It is worth mentioning that when he took to woodcutting in Safed, he revealed a more realistic approach that was more like what he learned in his youth at the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw.

Showing his work in Juvenishki for the first time since his death is a symbolic coming back to the source of his inspiration. Presenting it at the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum is a welldeserved consecration as well as a commemoration of the history of Jewish life in Lithuania.

Natan Karczmar