75-Year-Old Tragedy Remembered Through Children's Art In Kansas City's Crossroads

Jul 20, 2017

A village in the Czech Republic was the site of a brutal massacre during World War II. 

On June 10, 1942, every man in Lidice over the age of 15 was executed. Some children were sent to German homes to be "re-educated" to Nazi standards, and others were gassed in a concentration camp at Chełmno in Poland. Most of the mothers were killed at Ravensbrück, a camp north of Berlin.

With the inhabitants gone, the Nazis razed the village.  

Buttonwood Art Space in the Crossroads — with the assistance of Sharon Valášek, honorary consul to the Czech Republic — is commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack, which was in retaliation for Lidice’s suspected involvement in the assassination of a Nazi general.

The exhibition consists of seven informational and photographic panels about the tragedy and six panels that are compilations of children’s art from around the world. The children’s panels are a portion of the 15 pieces that make up the “International Children's Exhibit of Fine Art – Lidice.”  

One of the panels of children's art in the exhibition.
Credit Macy Layne / Buttonwood Art Space

The informational panels, created by curator Ivona Kasalická at the gallery in Lidice, are part of a traveling exhibition that includes stops in Washington, D.C., as well as Illinois, Iowa, and Texas.

Valášek, who grew up in a Czech community in Nebraska and moved to Kansas City in 1984, says that the tragedy has “become a symbol of the suffering of innocent civilians around the world.”

She's one of 22 consuls in Kansas City, each representing a different nation. In her role as consul, Valášek says she looks for ways to promote the Czech Republic in areas of culture, education, business, and politics.

In anticipation of the tragedy’s anniversary, she contacted her embassy in Washington, D.C. about a way to both memorialize the event in Kansas City, and educate the public in her jurisdiction about what took place.

Because children continue to be dramatically affected by war and violence, about 40 years ago Lidice opened the art contest they’d been holding since the 1960s to children in all countries —always with the theme of violence against children. Each panel includes 10 images.

(left to right) Sharon Valasek, honorary consul of the Czech Republic, and Buttonwood Art Space's Macy Layne stand next to the children's exhibit.
Credit Gary Lofstrom

Of a visit last year to Lidice, Valášek says, “It’s now very serene. It’s one of those places where the tragedy is poignantly captured, whether it’s the actual place where the killings happened, or whether it’s the museum.”

But what most caught her attention was what she thinks is probably the world’s largest bronze statue — made even grander by the size of the town of only 300 homes.

“It has 82 children — a life-sized statue of all these children — to represent all who were victims,” she says.

The Lidice exhibition at Buttonwood is tied into a larger show called World Visions, which showcases 160 pieces of art, some local, but much from overseas, including artists from Israel, Germany, Prague, and China.

Any sales of art benefit Sister City Association of Kansas City with 50% to the artist and 50% to Sister City, which is a grassroots-level community development organization that assists sister cities abroad in a variety of sectors.

According to the Lidice Memorial Website, after the destruction of the village, several other villages around the world renamed their town Lidice. In 1945, with international support, the Czech Republic rebuilt the town and assisted the 143 survivors in reclaiming it as their home.

75th Anniversary of the Lidice Tragedy runs through July 31, and World Visions runs through September 22 with a First Friday Reception on Sept. 1 from 6 - 9 p.m. Both exhibitions are on view at Buttonwood Art Space at 3013 Main St., Kansas City, Missouri 64108. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by appointment 816-285-9040.

Anne Kniggendorf’s writing appears regularly in The Kansas City Star. Follow her @annekniggendorf.