Dirkje Freida Legerstee
Everyone is born into a story.
Mine begins with an improbable love story in ordinary times, of two strangers whose journeys collide at a Nazi munitions’ factory in Eberswalde, Germany during World War II. One an innocent Polish Jew from Lublin hiding in the open as a Ukrainian imposter fleeing the holocaust and the other, a young Dutchman deported as a labor slave from the small village of Mijnsheerenland, the Netherlands. In the context of war and depravity, differences disappeared, and a friendship was fostered through sour milk illicitly siphoned from the kitchen by my mother Anja Deborah Kuperman, for her starving friend, Arie Legerstee.
Through a quirk of a commandant’s conscience and the help of unnamed “Angels in Human Skin”, my parents survived. Labeled as “Nazi War Victims,” our family was sponsored to come to America following years of preparation by the First Parish Church in Dover, NH, in 1956.
These works symbolize my quest to face the malevolent shadow of the holocaust that haunted my mother, wronged my father, and marked my own heart. They symbolize an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual struggle to apprehend the agony of war, while acknowledging the complexity of human choice-making.
Most pieces are mixed media collage, composed with images, artifacts, fragments of documents, paint, metal and other materials reflecting snippets of stories, existential questions, theological reflections, and at the core, a journey of survival made possible by scores of anonymous persons, the upstanders, who chose kindness over hatred, those my mother called, Angels in Human Skin.”
Within several works lies a bit of mirror for reflection. Then and now, each of us must choose our response to human suffering. My prayer is that love will prevail.
Remembrance can open the heart to opportunities for insight and healing. Learning from the past can brings forth wisdom and imaginative possibility for healing our broken-hearted world. May it be so.
- Dirkje Frieda Legerstee
About the Artist
Rev. Dr. Dirkje F. Legerstee, now retired, served many local churches in The Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ (SNEUCC) since 1985. She earned her Doctorate at Andover Newton Theological School (Andover Seminary at Yale) in the field of Faith Health and Spirituality, and taught as an adjunct professor for several years. Dr. Legerstee has facilitated retreats for church groups throughout New England, including the NHUCC Clergy Convocation and as a keynote leader at the UCC Star Island gathering. She is an
InterPlay Leader, and a graduate of The Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. She served as ritualist and environmentalist for Spiritual Directors International’s Boston Gathering, using art, music, and dance to create sacred space. Dirkje was supported and sustained in creating many of the pieces in this collection by a remarkable group of women artists in a Creativity and Spirituality Workshop facilitated by Judith Cooper. She is a fellow at the Cohen Center for Holocaust Studies at KSC and lives in Westford with her husband, Stephen T. Mague.