I first met Eva Deutsch Costabel on the evening of Wednesday, April 27th, at a 10th police precinct community meeting. I was there to speak about bicycles and pedestrian safety. As I spoke, Eva cheered me on, and after the meeting she approached me and said she wanted to "team up" with me to call the issue to the attention of Mayor Bloomberg. I gave Eva my contact information and she called me the next morning. We spoke and discussed a plan regarding how to have the matter effectively addressed... and during that conversation she invited me to visit her on a Saturday afternoon. I had no idea I would become a community activist with such a talented and accomplished woman who has been the subject of so many interviews.
Eva Deutsch Costabel was born in Yugoslavia and she grew up in an upper middle class Viennese family. Her mother was a liberated woman who owned a children's store and her father was in the chemical business. In 1941, the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia. Eva's father was arrested and he was accused of sabotage and he was killed at Treblinka in Poland. Later, the Nazis came and Eva and her mother and sister had half an hour to leave their home. Eva told me that when the Nazis were in her home she accidentally knocked over a vase and a Nazi wanted to shoot her. She had to beg for her life because the Nazi told her that "broken glass brings bad luck." Eva felt like a helpless victim and this was the first experience that motivated her to later become an activist. Eva and her mother and sister were sent to an Italian concentration camp in Croatia. Eva told me that none of the Jews in that camp were killed because "Italians don't kill Jews." During WW II, Eva did drawings of peasants. After the camp was closed, she joined the partisan army and after the war her family lived in one room in Rome. Eventually, they came to the United States in 1949.
In America, Eva got a job painting roses on make-up compacts.... for one penny a rose. And she learned English. She worked on window displays and became a package designer, which was her career for thirty-four years. And years later, she taught graphics at FIT and at the Parsons School of Design.
Eva has written many children's books and they are in libraries in schools because they are historically accurate as Eva is an impeccable researcher. Her books include "New England Village," published by Scribner in 1981, "The Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers and Craftsman," published by MacMillan in 1983, "The Jews of New Amsterdam," published by MacMillan in 1986, and "The Early People of Florida," published by MacMillan in 1993. Eva has visited all of the places she has written about. She did the cover art, the stories, and all of the inside illustrations for her books.
Eva is an ardent supporter of Israel and she is involved in many projects. She balances her literary career with her paintings and projects and she has written a memoir. This article appeared in "Chelsea Now".
I took Eva's photo, but she kept asking to take mine... telling me she is an excellent photographer. Well, it came time to say "good-bye" and Eva kissed me and said "Shalom." Yes, "hello" Eva and thank-you for sharing part of your Saturday afternoon with me. You are an inspiration.
The above painting, "Self Portrait after Klimt," by Eva Deutsch Costabel appears at this blog with her written permission.