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Kurt Piczenik

“A refugee has one wish, and that is to survive”

Writer: Keren-Or Rosenbaum

Photographer: Keren-Or Rosenbaum

Kurt was born in 1925 in Vienna, Austria. By the time he was 14 years old, he had lost his mother and faced the war that knocked on his door alone. Kurt relates how the conditions for Jews in Austria started to deteriorate: “I remember that in those years we already felt the restrictions on us as Jews. While my friends at school traveled by bus, it was forbidden for me, and I walked kilometers on foot.” When the situation worsened, his sister fled to Mandatory Palestine, and his father fled to Switzerland. Kurt was left in an orphanage for Jewish boys in Vienna. Kurt came to Denmark as part of the Jugend Aliyah movement, where young Jews were sent to Denmark to learn farming with the aim of later moving to Mandatory Palestine. After his arrival in Denmark, Kurt ended up working in agriculture in Faaborg on the island of Fyn. He learned the Danish language slowly while working and reading books, which is one of his great loves. He made friends until one day he had to leave his home again: “They told me I had to come to Copenhagen. I didn't know the city. I was hidden in a mental hospital. One evening I was told that I should leave and run away to Sweden. It was October 1943, I didn't really know Danish yet and I didn't understand what was happening.” After hiding for a while in the hospital, he was picked up by a stranger who took him to the harbor in Copenhagen, and from there he sailed to Barsebäck in Sweden. When asked about where he got the courage to escape alone at a young age, he answered: “A refugee has one wish, and that is to survive.” Kurt stayed in Sweden for about two and a half years, where he first worked in the lumber industry in Northern Sweden, and then started his education as a photographer. In 1946 he returned to Faaborg. In 1964 he met his wife, and together they have a daughter and four grandchildren. The war had a significant impact on Kurt's life. Although he did not graduate from high school, he did acquire an education as a photographer and graphic artist and worked in the house of Politiken for more than 40 years. “It's important to tell this story, because even today there are refugees, and it's important to behave humanely,” he explains. But his story is different and special. About a boy who moved between 3 countries and was saved thanks to the kindness of strangers.

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