January 25 2011
Listen: As we continue to delve into Make Milwaukee, we begin our second week searching for hidden gems of Milwaukee's creative community. My tour guide for the week is Reginald Baylor, a phenomenal artist and creative spark working in Milwaukee. I tasked Reggie with stretching himself a bit, to find people, places, and stories that are perhaps off the beaten path but exemplify just how unexpectedly amazing our city can be. Reggie was certainly up for the challenge.
His first hidden gem was Martha Kranzthor-Osvat, a nearly 87 year old woman living in Glendale. After he saw her speak at Lake Bluff Elementary School in Shorewood, he knew that her story, or some part of it, needed to be heard.
Martha is exceptional in so many ways -- she speaks seven languages, she's a published poet, a natural story teller, an accomplished dancer and psychologist. I spent an afternoon with Martha, drinking tea and listening to stories from her life, ranging from the enchanting story of her birth to her family's harrowing experiences with the holocaust. She spoke with such grace and openness, drifting between the near mythic past and our very real present. I wish there was a way to compact that whole afternoon and share it here, but we are limited by the medium.
This story left me spellbound, it's scope practically unbelievable, yet finding its conclusion in our humble city. So much subtle magic. Martha shares her path from post-war communist Romania to the States and Milwaukee:
Thank God and Thank Life. Not very often does a story of that magnitude come along -- it took every bit of lyricism and delicacy I could muster to do Martha justice. I cannot wait to hear more stories from her in the future.