A Russian-born author at a Ukraine fundraiser on Cape Cod

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BREWSTER — A Russian-born author will recount the struggle to save her grandfather’s artwork and bring it to America at a fundraiser for Ukraine this week.

The Brewster Bookstore will host a conversation, book signing and fundraiser on Thursday for Ukraine featuring Yelena Lemberskyco-author (with his mother Galina) of the memoir “Like a Drop of Ink in a Downpour: Memories of Soviet Russia”.

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Lembersky will speak with Sofiya Penek Klein, who was born in Berdichev, Ukraine and helped organize the event.

“When (Lembersky) contacted me, I was immediately impressed. This is just fundraising and awareness,” said bookstore co-owner Jessica Devin. “In our section for children, we have books about refugees from many angles and I felt she could connect with the experience of refugees around the world.”

Author born in Leningrad

Twenty percent of sales of these books, along with Lembersky’s memoir and food at the event will go to the Boston-based company Ukrainian striker.

“I was born in Leningrad (today Saint-Petersburg). I came here when I was 17 in 1987,” Lembersky said in a phone interview from his Boston-area home. “I first moved with my mother to Ann Arbor (Michigan) where my grandmother had lived since 1980. We had planned to get together, my mother, my grandmother and me.”

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Lembersky’s family could be considered both artistic and political refugees. His late grandfather, originally from Ukraine, was a well-known Soviet painter whose work fell out of favor. Her mother planned to take the paintings out of Russia when she was imprisoned, leaving Yelena alone when she was 11.

“Art will save the world,” said Lembersky. “My grandfather Felix Lembersky was a leading painter. His earlier work was collected by major museums in Russia, but his later non-figurative work fell short of government-mandated socialist realism. He created paintings on Babi Yar and the Soviets did not allow them to be exhibited. “

A sketch by Felix Lembersky

Babi Yar or Babyn Yar, just outside kyiv, was the site of a massacre of Russian Jews by the German SS, in 1942. The Germans continued to use the ravine for executions of Jews and others Ukrainians. A memorial commemorating him was bombed during the early days of the Russian invasion.

by Felix Lembersky series on Babi Yar includes his most famous work.

Grandma brought paintings to the United States

“After his death in 1970, several hundred paintings remained in our small apartment and they had to come and had to be displayed because art is meaningless if people do not see it, but it was never possible in Soviet Russia,” Lembersky said. .

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Lembersky does not remember her grandfather but grew up surrounded and curious about the many paintings.

“” So my mother decided that the three of us would emigrate with the paintings. She decided to emigrate to save this work. (My grandmother) was able to come (here) first with the paintings. We were held back by the Soviet government. I was able to come seven years later. During this time, my grandmother lived alone and learned. She worked and helped us financially from Ann Arbor,” Lembersky said.

“My grandmother was able to wear these paintings – that’s a small part of the challenge of getting art out of Russia,” she said. “My mother was charged with a fabricated crime and incarcerated. I found myself without a family at 11 years old.

Mother imprisoned when author was 11

After obtaining visas to travel to Israel, her mother was accused of stealing rubbing alcohol from the hair salon where she worked. Her daughter moved from apartment to apartment for years with friends while awaiting the release of her mother, Galina Lembersky.

“I wanted to tell the story of my mother’s trial since I was a child because there was nothing else I could do to help her. Telling her story was the only way to get justice,” Lembersky said.

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Despite the seriousness of the situation, Lembersky does not describe his house as gray and gloomy land.

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“My first thought was that I would write about the trial and the incarceration. It ended up reminding me of growing up in Soviet Russia,” she said. “There were a lot of fond memories from the neighborhood. When people read the book, they tell me that they are most touched by the good things in it, the kind and tough people, the close neighborhood, the grandmothers who looked after the children in the neighborhood, the beautiful forests. It’s different from what people think, but that was life.

She wrote in Russian and then translated it into English.

“I wrote about gray but there was a lot of color in those grays,” Lembersky said. “There were good times of kindness and wealth in the nation even in those little apartments.”

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In America, they first settled in Michigan.

“My mom went back to college and got a master’s degree in library science. She was in college at the same time as me,” Lembersky said. “We both studied and graduated. She was at Wayne State, I was in Michigan.

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Lembersky was accepted into a master’s program in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and moved to Cambridge. She also studied her grandfather’s life and art and published a book about his work in 2009. Her paintings have been exhibited in the United States and Europe.

“After his work gained recognition, I was able to go back to childhood and tell our story with my mother. We published together, the book came out this year (in January),” Lembersky said.

It was published by Brookline’s Academic Studies Press, a publishing house specializing in Russian and Ukrainian translations, among other subjects.

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“It’s an independent local press and they’ve been wonderful. Their marketing and sales manager just vacationed in Provincetown and we’ve also spent summers in Cape Town for many years in Yarmouth and Chatham. Now , we’re going to Rockport,” she said.

But she also loves living in Boston.

“It’s the best place in the world,” she said. “In one direction you see sailboats. Look in another and see the White Mountains.

“I’m a long-time customer (of the bookstore) and I’m originally from Ukraine,” Penek-Klein said. “The grandfather and the family (of Lembersky) are from the same city in Ukraine (Berdichev) as me. Our plan is to do a book signing. We also asked a local chef to provide food. We will tell the story of our travels from the same city in Ukraine, his memories, his experience and his escape from Russia.

The story must be told

Her family helped raise over $40,000 and ship over 3,000 pounds of medical supplies to Ukraine.

“I use every opportunity to help Ukraine,” Lembersky said. “My family is from there. My grandmother and grandfather grew up in western Ukraine and this attack should never have happened.

“I think the big story is that people have to be tolerant of life and skeptical of what we hear from the government and always stand up for the truth,” she said. “I think the events unfolding in Ukraine and Russia now prove that the story needs to be told and until all of their stories come out and become public, we are all at risk of eventually becoming victims of aggression.”

If you are going to:

When: 5 p.m. Thursday, August 11

Where: Brewster Bookstore, 2648 Main St.

Admission: Donations welcome

Information: https://brewsterbookstore.com/

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