Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Butterfly Project and Garden

The Butterfly
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone. . . .
Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.
For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.
That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
in the ghetto.

This beautiful and sad poem was written by a 21-year old man named Pavel Friedman. Pavel perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust.  His poem helped to inspire The Butterfly Project,  a project designed to memorialize the 1.5 million children who were killed in the Holocaust.  The project originated at the San Diego Jewish Day School ~ the idea being to collect 1.5 million handmade butterflies worldwide.  Our local Jewish Community Center took part and I was lucky to be a volunteer. This video is great and gives a lot of background and details of the project.

My first visit to the Ceramic Studio was to paint one of the butterflies. I loved being in the studio with a bunch of others who were also there to paint.  It was therapeutic and quite moving. We were each given a card with the name of one of the children who perished and the thought was to paint your butterfly in memory of that child.  I enjoyed myself and believed in the project so much that I began volunteering. Mainly I prepared the slabs of clay and cut out the butterflies using a cookie cutter. I also helped the people who were there to paint.  

On the most memorable day there was a survivor in the studio.  I know because a tattooed number was visible on her forearm.  When I collected her butterfly, I looked down to find her number painted on the wings.  I tried to imagine what her early life must've been like and I wanted to put my arms around her.  Of course I didn't feel comfortable doing that because she was a stranger but I was extra sweet to her until she left.  

Fast forward to May of 2011 when the Children's Holocaust Butterfly Sculpture was unveiled at the local community center.  The sculpture contains about 2,800 butterflies that were made by the local Jewish community as well as students from schools all over Charlotte.  The sculpture was created by Paul Rousso. I love how the sculpture is shaped like a heart but butterfly wings as well. It's really lovely.

Alain, Clara and I just happened to be in the butterfly garden a couple of weekends ago and I was reminded of the beauty and magic of the sculpture.  My favorite detail of the sculpture are the 3D wings sticking out. I took a few photos to share here.....

I am quite proud to have taken a tiny little part in such a memorable project.


  1. Dear Audrey,
    Oh, where do I begin? I have heard of this project before but I appreciate so much your sharing how this has been done in the area where you live. That sculpture is so beautiful.
    My heart is heavy with the thought of all those children who died: may we never forget them.
    It's hard for me to write about things that I feel very strongly about.

    1. Thanks, Kay ~ each time I read that poem it gives me chills. It's hard to imagine such hatred. Makes me so sad....


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