The CapRadio Reads Interview

In November, Capital Public Radio’s Donna Apidone interviewed me in front of a live audience about my great-grandfather’s art, the CHASING PORTRAITS book, and the forthcoming documentary film. The interview is now available online. Listen Here.

Podcast Interview at the Deerfield (IL) Public Library

“On this episode of the Deerfield Public Library Podcast, we had the great pleasure of talking to Elizabeth Rynecki, author of Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy. We discussed her amazing, decades-long project to find the missing paintings of her great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki, who painted scenes of Polish-Jewish life in the interwar years. At the start of World War II, Moshe Rynecki hid his life’s work with family friends, and was later murdered at the Majdanek concentration camp. While some paintings were recovered after the war, many remained (and still remain) lost.

Elizabeth’s memoir and forthcoming documentary, also titled Chasing Portraits, trace her story of discovery and meditate on the legacy of World War II and survivorship. Learn more and see Moshe Rynecki’s paintings at while you listen to our conversation.

You can check out Chasing Portraits from the library or find other books and movies mentioned in our conversation here.”

The Chasing Portraits Book Tour Continues…IL, WI, CO

The Chasing Portraits book tour continues in Deerfield (IL), Appleton (WI), and Denver (CO)…

October 8, 2017 (2-3:30pm)
Deerfield Public Library
(920 N. Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, IL)

October 9, 2017 (6:30-7:30pm)
Fox Cities Book Festival
Appleton Public Library
(225 N. Oneida St. Appleton, WI)

October 15, 2017 (4pm)
Fred Marcus Memorial Holocaust Lecture
Elaine Wolf Theatre, MACC at the JCC
(350 S. Dahlia St. Denver, CO 80246)
Tickets are $18

Pierze Puch – Down Feathers


In 1929 my great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943), painted this painting in Warsaw, Poland. I know this because the painting (it’s untitled, but contains the image of the goose with the words, Pierze Puch, which means Down Feathers, thus the blog post title) is dated in the lower left hand corner along with the Polish spelling of the city: Warszawa. My family once had possession of this painting, but no longer knows its whereabouts.

If you’re not entirely familiar with my family’s story, here’s the brief synopsis:

My great-grandfather was a prolific Warsaw based artist who painted scenes of the Polish Jewish community in the interwar years. In the early days of the Second World War he became concerned about his body of work and made the decision to divide his paintings, sketches, and notebooks into bundles, which he then hid with friends and acquaintances in and around the city of Warsaw. He then went into the Warsaw Ghetto and was eventually deported to Majdanek, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, where he perished. My Dad (who was not quite 3 when the war started) and his parents survived the war on false papers. After the war, (please read Chasing Portraits to learn the longer story), Moshe’s widow recovered a small percentage of the hidden paintings. Trying to leave behind the destruction and horrible memories of the war, Dad and his parents moved to Italy. In Rome, they made photographs of a number of surviving paintings. This was one of the photographs that they made. Unfortunately, while we have this photo, my family no longer has the painting, and I don’t know who has it.

In 2008 I began work on a documentary film (currently in post-production) about my quest for my great-grandfather’s lost paintings, and produced a 9-minute “proof of concept” trailer. The trailer contains this photograph. This is important to explain because it’s not online elsewhere and I was recently contacted by Elly (Eliezer) Trepman (he’s researching information about the street where his father grew up), who spotted the image in the trailer and thought it was along the street he’s researching.

The painting seems to be slightly north of the Rynkowa-Krochmalna intersection. The building on the left, next to the men with the lulav (the closed frond of the date palm tree used during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot), is probably Rynkowa 11. The round building on the right with the arches, across the street, is probably the market building Wielopole (Gościnny Dwór).

Wielopole (Gościnny_Dwór)







Additionally, while the goose down icon (Pierze Puch) was probably fairly common in Poland, there were, in fact, two such signs on Rynkowa Street; a square one at Rynkowa 11 and a round one just two houses south, at Rynkowa 7. While these photographs from Yad Vashem’s digital collection were taken from the other side of the goose sign, facing south, they are along the same street.

Yad Vashem. Archival signature: 1406_85









Yad Vashem. Archival signature: 1406_78








Furthermore, it appears that the Rynecki painting also includes the front columns of Lubomirski Palace.

Lubomirski Palace, Warsaw







To help point out these features in the Rynecki painting, I’ve marked up this image (click on the photograph to enlarge it).

An aerial image with the various components discussed above, labeled here for purposes of better understanding the street geography.

1935 aerial image labelled by Elly Trepman Aerial Image via

I am, once again, reminded that I never know how, or when, or in what manner I will receive new clues about my great-grandfather’s life and body of work. My project is titled Chasing Portraits for many reasons, but one of the themes that seems to intrigue people the most is the idea of chasing down details and fragments of general history and of history specific to my family. I am grateful to all who provide clues and details that allow me to better understand my great-grandfather and his art. Thank you for being part of the journey.


Q&A with Swenson Book Development

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Trace Sonnleitner at Swenson Book Development about Chasing Portraits, family memories, research, writing, and the documentary film:

Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy by Elizabeth Rynecki, is the story of her search for the art of her great-grandfather, which disappeared after he was killed in the Majdanek concentration camp. Moshe Rynecki’s body of work reached close to eight hundred paintings and sculptures, which he created between the First and Second World Wars in Warsaw, Poland. Recently, I interviewed her about her research, writing the book, and working on the documentary film.

Trace Sonnleitner: The interactions you portray between Moshe and his parents, and between you and your parents, and grandparents, remind me of some generational differences in my own family. When I ask them questions about their past they are usually answered with quickly worded stories that make me laugh, or draw out my sympathetic emotions. Did you intentionally display these generational differences in your own family?

Elizabeth Rynecki: My goal was to tell the story of my great-grandfather’s art, but it quickly became clear that each generation—the artist, his father, his son, my Dad, and I—had very different relationships to the art. My great-grandfather, the artist, felt an incredible compulsion to paint. His son, my Grandpa George, understood the historical importance of his father’s work, especially in light of his death in the Holocaust. Dad understood his father’s love of the art and asked me to build a website to make the art more accessible to others.

I have taken Dad’s initial steps and pushed an even more expansive view—to uncover details about the past so audiences might better appreciate and understand the history of the collection. Each generation’s expertise played a slightly different role in shaping how the next generation would experience and make sense of the art and its history.

[Read the rest of the interview on Swenson Book Development’s Blog]

The Jewish Hour with Rabbi Finman

I spoke with The Jewish Hour out of Detroit about Chasing Portraits and my great-grandfather’s art. You can listen to the interview on their podcast:


Friday Morning Coffee: Chasing Portraits Author Elizabeth Rynecki on Writer’s Bone

Chasing Portraits author and documentary film producer Elizabeth Rynecki talks to Daniel Ford on the podcast Writer’s Bone about her emotional and personal project to find her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather’s paintings that were lost during World War II.

    writer's bone

    Chasing Portraits Radio Interview – Dallas, TX

    Missed my interview on KERA’s Think? Not to worry, you can listen to it online or download it as a podcast.

    KERA Think








    About Think: “Since launching in November 2006, Think and host Krys Boyd have earned more than a dozen local, regional and national awards, including the 2012 Public Radio News Directors Inc. first place award for best call-in show, the 2016 Texas AP Broadcasters 2nd place award for local talk show, the 2013 Regional Edward R. Murrow award for breaking news coverage and more. In addition to airing on KERA FM, Think also is among the most-downloaded local podcasts in the public radio system, receiving about 200,000 downloads each month – more than half of which come from listeners outside the state. In each of the past two years, Think has been invited to broadcast live from the NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C.” []

    Reading the Megillah

    In the months since Chasing Portraits was released (September 2016 was the publication date), I frequently get asked if I have anything new to report about finding my great-grandfather’s lost paintings. Up until today, the answer was “no.” Today I received an email from a Polish friend who continues to astonish me with his discoveries. Today he sent me the image of a painting titled, “Reading the Megilah,” an ink drawing published in the Warsaw Yiddish daily, Unzer Express on March 17, 1938. The illustration was included to illustrate several articles on the page about Purim. Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jewish people in ancient Persia from Haman’s plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, infants and women, in a single day,” as recorded in the Megillah (book of Esther).