Felicia Michal­ski

Felicia Ku­vent Michal­ski 1919-2019

San Francisco Chronicle - - BAY AREA -

A pow­er­ful force of na­ture, a body in mo­tion, passed from the scene this week, a fighter till the end. Felicia Michal­ski was a Holo­caust sur­vivor run­ning for her life at the age of 19, but she staunchly re­fused to be cast as a vic­tim, de­ter­mined to sur­vive and thrive. Hard­ened by the con­tra­dic­tions of life, she was a war­rior for jus­tice and at five-feet-two stood taller and stronger than any team of men. Her life story de­fied all com­mon sense be­cause hers was the story of spirit, hope and faith and an in­tense de­sire to sur­vive. With her hus­band Joseph they never looked back, fully em­brac­ing the bless­ings of Amer­i­can free­dom and op­por­tu­nity, de­ter­mined to ed­u­cate their three boys and “make it” in their beloved new home. Never shy about ex­press­ing her thoughts, opin­ions or wishes, Felicia was re­mark­ably in­de­pen­dent in a world that did not value or ac­knowl­edge strong ca­pa­ble women.

At the out­break of the Sec­ond World War, Fela Ku­vent and her brother Yaa­cov (Un­cle Kuba) ran for their lives from their na­tive Poland. Mak­ing their way through Poland to Ukraine in the depths of win­ter, they es­caped cap­ture by the Nazis sev­eral times. Iron­i­cally, the Rus­sians cap­tured them and sent them to Siberia as slave la­bor­ers. When their camp was needed to house cap­tured Nazi sol­diers, the civil­ians were re­leased. She led in the con­struc­tion of two large rafts fash­ioned out of tree logs. They floated down sev­eral Siberian rivers for two weeks with many es­capees dy­ing along the way. Near death her­self, she and her brother ar­rived in Dzum­bul, Kaza­khstan. A few mir­a­cles later, her be­trothed, Josef Michal­ski, also from her vil­lage of Gostynin, found her dy­ing of ty­phus fever. He nur­tured her back to health, and soon they mar­ried and had two sons in Dzum­bul, Jerry (1943) and Henry (1945).

Back in Europe, the hor­rors of the Holo­caust which con­sumed their en­tire fam­i­lies were re­vealed, mak­ing em­i­gra­tion to a safe coun­try im­mi­nent. For three years the young fam­ily lived as refugees in a DP (Dis­placed Per­sons) camp. Af­ter years of pa­per work, the United States fi­nally granted per­mis­sion for the Michal­ski fam­ily to set­tle in Amer­ica. Ea­ger to start a new life, one of hope and op­por­tu­nity, they never looked back, in­stead in­still­ing in their sons a love of Amer­i­can val­ues and the prom­ise of a bet­ter life. Af­ter a dif­fi­cult year in New York, the fam­ily moved to San Fran­cisco where in 1952 Ge­orge, named af­ter Felicia’s father Ger­shon, was born.

Felicia spoke more than six lan­guages and pos­sessed a keen eye and a so­phis­ti­cated taste for beau­ti­ful ob­jects d’art. Self­taught, she mas­tered the art of col­lect­ing and be­came an ex­pert in many ar­eas to the point where deal­ers and cu­ra­tors sought her opin­ion. Above all, she deeply loved and was proud of her three sons: “My three hot boys, my dear lit­tle chick­ens”. No one worked harder than Felicia and Joseph in pro­vid­ing for their fam­ily, truly the last of the Great­est Gen­er­a­tion.

Felicia was pre­ceded in death by her ador­ing hus­band Joseph of 54 years, her beloved brother Kuba and sis­ter-in-law Tova of Is­rael, and her old­est son Jerry who passed away in 2014. She is sur­vived by her sons Henry (Lynn), and Ge­orge; three grand­chil­dren Wendy (Ryan), Elaina and Ge­of­frey (Meghan); four great-grand­chil­dren Bryson (7), Caleb (5), Dy­lan (5), and Ja­cob (2); and her nephew Reu­ven (Mirella) and niece Za­havah of Tel Aviv. Any­one who has met Felicia can­not for­get the ex­pe­ri­ence. She was charm­ing, straight­for­ward, deeply in­tel­li­gent in the ways of the world and of hu­man be­hav­ior, and had no time for pills, ills, or fools; pre­fer­ring the arts, cul­ture and a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion. May her mem­ory be for a bless­ing.

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