Refugee education in Vilnius, 1939

Photo series by Bolesława and Edmund Zdanowscy

“The youth of Jewish war refugees are getting ready to emigrate to Palestine. They want to take there practical skills of some crafts as well. In the picture we can see young Jews at the crafts and trades school learning the skills of a carpenter.” Photo by Bolesława und Edmund Zdanowscy, 1939 © M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, ČDM Ta-4690(77)

“Craft and trade schools have been established for war refugees. Here we can see a school of spinning and weaving where the young people willing to learn a trade may do this under supervision of qualified specialists. Such schools are deliverance for the refugees: they provide a job and protect nerves and brain from excessive worries and concerns.” Photo by Bolesława und Edmund Zdanowscy, 1939 © M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, ČDM Ta-4690(21)

“The youth of Jewish war refugees in Vilnius are learning trades and getting ready for life and work. In the picture we can see the Jewish youth of both genders involved in sewing work at a crafts and trades school.” Photo by Bolesława und Edmund Zdanowscy, 1939 © M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, ČDM Ta-4690(75)

“A class in the gymnasium of war refugees – so far, suitable desks of the school type have not been made ready for the students; that is why they have to do their written works with their notebooks and books laid on their knees.” Photo by Bolesława und Edmund Zdanowscy, 1939 © M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, ČDM Ta-4690(57)

This is a series of digitized photographs taken at the end of 1939 by the Polish couple Bolesława and Edmund Zdanowscy in facilities for refugees in Vilnius.

In a series of photographic projects, the Zdanowscys captured the mood in Vilnius in the 1930s and 1940s. These images provide an insight into the everyday life of the refugees, including the educational opportunities offered by and for refugees in Vilnius. For the Jewish refugees, these consisted not only of the provisional composition of school classes, but also of preparations for emigration to Palestine: young people – both men and women – learn crafts and skills that could be useful to them after emigration. Photos show the young people in workshops doing carpentry, sewing and weaving. Among other things, they can be seen in front of banners of the political-orthodox movement Agudat Israel.

The notes that the Zdanowscys wrote on the photographed scenes can be seen in the captions.

It is uncertain whether the people in the photos managed to emigrate: their fates are largely unknown.

All photos by Bolesława and Edmund Zdanowscy, 1939 © M.K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art

Photo 1, Woodwork: ČDM Ta-4690(77)

Photo 2, Weaving: ČDM Ta-4690(21)

Photo 3, Sewing machine: ČDM Ta-4690(75)

Photo 4, Classroom: ČDM Ta-4690(57)

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