“She stood in the storm, and when the wind did not blow her way she adjusted her sails.” - Elizabeth Edwards

Solace in Stories

Painting illustration of children waving American flags in front of the main building that immigrants pass through on Ellis Island.

Ellis Island, Mixed Media by Lisa Kagan

I believe that one of the unifying qualities that makes us human is our resilience. When one of my clients sits down with me and tells me their story, you can sense that their greatness is not only in their accomplishments, but in the ways in which they picked themselves up at those moments when things started to fall apart. When one of my students shares her narrative images during a workshop, I am inspired by the courage it takes for her to speak her truth, to recognize the ways in which she continues to strive to become the best parts of herself, no matter what unexpected twists and turns unfold in her life.

In times such as these, full of great uncertainty and instability, I find solace in stories. I recognize that each generation in my family has overcome great odds, with a mix of perseverance, resilience and hard work. My paternal great-grandparents Diana and Joseph Kagan, along with their young son, my grandfather, Henry fled Russia due to religious persecution and journeyed to the United States. Their immigration story is chronicled in the book that I wrote and illustrated entitled, The Journey of Henry Kagan. I often look to journeys of those that have come before me to help navigate my path forward.

Photo of book cover: The Journey of Henry KaganThe Kaganofski family prepared to escape to freedom. They sewed Joseph’s remaining gold nuggets into their clothes and pieces of leather. Leaving behind the only life they had ever known, they sought a safe and just place to start again. Their journey began on foot as they climbed a steep hill with their horse beside them. At the crest of the hill, they stopped and looked back at their hometown. Joseph instructed Henry to give the horse to the townspeople. Their starving neighbors were exceedingly grateful, butchering the horse and cooking it on the slope of the hill.The family followed the path of the Christian Underground Railroad—a series of homes where Christians welcomed migrating Jews and helped them escape. During the day, the Kaganofskis hid in twenty-foot haystacks in the fields. Russian soldiers, searching for Jews, sometimes came and stuck pitchforks in the haystacks. Yet the Kaganofskis survived.”
-Excerpt from The Journey of Henry Kagan, by Lisa Kagan
Read more and view the complete set of corresponding illustrations…

A few questions to consider…

  • What is one of the most significant stories of resilience in your family history or in your own life experience?
  • What strengths were developed as a result of this experience, and how did they inform the path forward into the future?

Join us for our 2017 Winter Workshops

Join us for our 2017 winter workshops, or contact Family Heirloom Arts to set-up a free initial consultation so you can learn more about how we can help you write and illustrate your own heirloom book for your family.

“I have learned how creative I can be at turning something negative into a positive. Thank you Lisa!”
– Sean, Multnomah County Library Workshop Participant

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