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.” [http://think.kera.org/about/]

    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).


    Upcoming Events

    Upcoming Talks

    February 15, 2017. 12-1
    The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
    (2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA)
    [Books will be available for purchase!]

    February 26, 2017. 1:30
    Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Philadelphia
    Congregation Rodeph Shalom
    (615 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA)
    [Books will be available for purchase from Main Point Books!]

    February 28, 2017. Noon.
    92nd Street Y
    (1395 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY)
    [Books will be available for purchase!]

    March 4, 2017. 5-10pm
    Authors on the Move. Sacramento’s Premier Literary Event.
    (Hyatt Regency Sacramento downtown, 1209 L St, Sacramento, CA.)
    [Books will be available for purchase!]

    March 8+9, 2017
    The Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas
    And the Dallas JCC
    (Dallas, TX)
    Details TBA

    October 8, 2017
    Deerfield Public Library
    (920 N. Waukegan Rd., Deerfield, IL)
    Details TBA

    Hey, NEW YORK!

    kanekoChasing Portraits at the 92Y

    Tuesday – 28 February 2017


    Reservations and Tickets


    Moshe Rynecki’s body of art work, which depicted the everyday lives of the Polish-Jewish community, reached close to eight hundred paintings and sculptures before his life came to a tragic end.

    His son George left behind journals detailing the losses the family endured during WWII, including Moshe’s art. Elizabeth Rynecki, George’s granddaughter, knowing that her family had only found a portion of Moshe’s art, set off on a quest to recover the lost art. She tells her story of the devastation of war and of the healing she found as she set out to find her great-grandfather’s lost art legacy.

    Elizabeth Rynecki is the great-granddaughter of the Polish-Jewish artist, Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943). In 1999, Elizabeth designed the original Moshe Rynecki: Portrait of a Life in Art website. Today, she continually updates it to keep it current regarding academic research, educational resources and tracking lost Rynecki paintings. Elizabeth has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College and a Master’s Degree in Rhetoric and Speech Communications from UC Davis

    – See more at: http://www.92y.org/Event/Recovering-a-Lost-Art-Legacy.aspx#sthash.SVsPMmdd.dpuf

    Chasing Portraits Podcast Experience

    I love podcasts. I gravitate towards non-fiction narratives, shows about books, and in-depth interviews. A great story draws me in, but well-honed delivery and strong editing keeps me listening. I have a not-so-secret confession. I’d love to produce a podcast. I sort of did in this Chasing Portraits Podcast Experience.


    I’m often torn about reading from my book. Advice on this topic, as with almost every subject matter, varies widely. Some believe reading a short passage—just enough to interest potential readers—is a must. And then there are those who adamantly believe it’s a mistake to read from one’s own book because, well, no one wants to listen to an author whose delivery is long, flat, and uninspired.

    I compromise. I read at my presentations, but only after introducing the Chasing Portraits story, and only for a very brief period. I’m the first to admit, it’s one thing to read at an event as part of a 45-minute presentation that includes images of my great-grandfather’s paintings as well as a chance to connect with the audience. It’s quite another to try to cram a very personal and [I hope] poignant experience into a 5ish-minute podcast. But not everyone can come to one of my events and, so I decided a podcast was worth a shot.

    So here it is, the Chasing Portraits podcast experience.


    [A special thank you to friend, supporter, and Sound Editor, Daryn Roven, for helping to make this recording possible]



    Capital Public Radio Interview

    Woman Discovers Holocaust-Era Paintings With “Chasing Portraits” Book.


    Listen to the interview on Capital Public Radio’s website.


    Kind Words from a Reader

    Official book reviews that say fabulous things are truly a wonderful gift to an author. But emails from readers are personally profound and meaningful. This one was sent to my Dad from a friend of his.

    “Alex – I was able to finish your daughter’s book while visiting family in DC and am pleased to report how much I enjoyed it. Perhaps I enjoyed it so much because I have the pleasure of hearing what you have to say at our Friday lunches and thus being able to mentally match up what Elizabeth has to say about you with what I know of your deep knowledge of all things and your way of speaking. Or it might be that her conversation with Professor Buxbaum brought back to me fond memories of my days in his class and of my research project under his tutelage. That your father lived in one of my favorite locations,the Eureka area, was also surprising to me; who would have thought that a displaced Polish survivor would be earning his livelihood in such a remote location? That our respective daughters attended UCD was a plus, and I could envision where she gave her talk that led her on such an interesting adventure. And from my knowledge of other Polish/Jewish survivors, I could better empathize with her – and your father’s – description of pre-War and WW II Poland. Your father’s efforts to write down his family history is to be commended and emulated by us all. That Elizabeth has had the gumption to flesh out that history and bring together the missing art to the benefit of not simply the Ryneckis but all of us, and the ability to put together a compelling novel as well, is remarkable.
    Mazel Tov – B”