When Anitta Fox of Hillside turned 90 last month, she didn’t want a party. Instead, she said, she wanted something done that might be useful for the Holocaust Council of Greater MetroWest.
So Fox is sharing her story and that of her father, Fred Boyko, in a video produced by the council. The Vienna-born Boyko was an artist, architect, and star pole vaulter and all-around athlete who was slated to compete in the 1936 Olympics but was banned because he was a Jew.
Excerpts from the documentary-in-progress — Unconquerable Souls — will be screened at the opening reception for an exhibit of Boyko’s work on Thursday, Oct. 30, at the Aidekman campus in Whippany, said Barbara Wind, director of the council, which is sponsoring the exhibit and is a department of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.
The display is titled “From Kristallnacht to Carnegie Hall.” Boyko fled Austria with his family after Kristallnacht; Carnegie Hall is where he opened his artist’s studio after arriving in New York in 1939. It will run through Nov. 21.
“My father was a lord among people,” said Fox in an interview at her Hillside home. “He was multi-talented. He was a top architectural student, and an Olympic-level athlete, but his greatest love and his forte was painting.”
Prior to the Nazi era, Boyko’s portraits won him a reputation across Europe. He painted such notables as Archduke Joseph of Austria, Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, and Sigmund Freud.
After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Boyko, his wife Helen, and Anitta fled from Austria. When they arrived in New York, he began painting stage personalities including actress Mary Martin as well as high society figures.
When he died of cancer in 1951, his daughter gave up her dream of becoming a physician. Instead, she trained as a physical therapist and became the director of New York University’s Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Many of her father’s paintings hang on the walls of Fox’s home. They include his last work: a portrait of her at age 27 that he was unable to complete before he died.
Fox told NJJN her father’s talents have “carried through to my children — Judy with her art, and Serena with her poetry, and Dan, who also writes beautifully.”
And yet, her family pride is tinged with a sadness about those who perished in the Holocaust.
“I think of all those people who didn’t get to have children and grandchildren,” she said.
The exhibit will encompass the video, the Boyko display — featuring paintings, photographs of private portraits, architectural drawings, furniture, and artifacts — and a collection of postcards that are currently being translated from German to English by a girl who was sent to England in the Kindertransport to escape the Nazis.