From wartime Romania to Vancouver, an artist's memoir

The work of Vancouver painter Pnina Granirer has been shown all over the world. Now her new memoir Light Within the Shadows chronicles her life as an artist, wife, mother, and community organizer.

Pnina Granirer's family was sold by the Romanian government following the Second World War

Now in her 80s, artist and writer Pnina Granirer is still keeping busy with the launch of her new memoir, a gallery sale and international exhibitions. (Pnina Granirer)

In her new book,Light Within the Shadows: A Painter's Memoir, Vancouver's Pnina Granirer tells the story of her life in three acts: as a Jewish girl in Nazi-allied Romania, her life in Israel and finally her career as a professional artist.

Granirer narrowly avoided capture by the Nazis when the Soviets pushed the Germans from Romania in 1944.

She was only 10 years old, but remembers the trains that were ready to take her and her family to what likely would have been their deaths in a Nazi concentration camp.

"The more I think about it now the more I realize how incredibly fortunate we were," Granirer said. "This is why I tell people I have a new religion: serendipity," she told Sheryl McKay, host of CBC's North by Northwest.

New Life in Israel

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, at least 270,000 Romanian Jews were killed during the Second World War.

After the war, the Communist government in Romania sold many of its Jewish citizens to Israel.

Granirer and her family were among those purchased. She believes they would have been worth about $1,000 each at the time.

The transition to Israel wasn't always easy for her and her siblings, Granirer says it felt like an adventure when they moved from the large family home in Romania to a one-room flat in Haifa. 

There, Granirer supported the family by working as a painter finishing Cuckoo clocks and ceramic dinnerware. 

Landed in Vancouver

After studying as a graphic artist and working as an illustrator in Jerusalem, Granirer and her husband moved to North America, eventually landing in Vancouver where she would go on to become a celebrated artist, selling her work across the globe.

In 1993, Granirer started Vancouver's first Open Studio walk, Artists in our Midst, which is celebrating it's 25th anniversary on May 27 and 28.

As part of the special event, Granirer will be selling her original pieces at half price to benefit Stand up for Mental Health, a program started by her son, David Granirer, a counsellor.

Stand up for Mental Health is a course that teaches people how to turn their mental health struggles into stand up comedy acts. It's been taught across Canada, the United States and Australia.