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Project history /timeline: 

Michelle Levy, She is Alone, 2017, performance lecture with participation. Image: NURTUREart, Brooklyn.

PAULINA is a collaboration between Michelle Levy (New York), and Patrycja Dołowy (Warsaw)

Ten pages of a testimony taken in Kraków in 1945 were all that seemed to exist of Paulina Hirsch, a Polish-Jewish woman who navigated her way throughout Nazi-occupied Poland. One of the thousands of testimonies taken by Poland’s Central Jewish Historical Committee at the end of World War II, Paulina's testimony is an official, impersonal account – the woman behind the text remains a mystery. An introductory note begins, "Sama" – She is alone.

When Michelle Levy asked Patrycja Dołowy to translate the testimony of her recently discovered ancestor, little did they know they had entered a web of events that had been unfolding over decades. 


Asking what happens when one woman's account of survival is revisited in the very places where it transpired, Levy relocated to Poland to spend nine-months investigating Paulina's testimony together with Dołowy. The two women planned a journey, physically retracing Paulina’s wartime movement across Poland and Ukraine. In April 2019, guided by happenstance, the women embarked on a road trip to see what they would find...

PAULINA is an evolving multimedia storytelling performance. Presented as a dialogue between search and discovery, Levy and Dołowy summon archives, personal travel footage, maps, oral histories, foliage, and pieces of the earth, as tangible means to share what is truly ungraspable.

As we still grapple to comprehend the Holocaust and its echoes today, this project strives to overcome misunderstandings while seeking answers to difficult questions. Exploring relationships between people who were uprooted and those who stayed behind, it is an exchange between two women from the US and Poland – whose story together aims to inspire action and dialogue around caring for stories of others, strangers. 



PAULINA has been developed in cooperation with POLIN Museum of Polish Jews, Warsaw; with additional research support by the Archive and Genealogy Departments of The Emmanual Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw; and Festivalt, Krakow. The project has been made possible through grants from Asylum Arts, New York; the US Embassy, Warsaw, Poland; and through Brooklyn Arts Council fiscal sponsorship, it has received donations from 90+ individuals.

In the fall of 2018, Levy relocates to Poland for nine months to research Paulina's text, hosted by POLIN Museum and in collaboration with Patrycja Dołowy (the artist/storyteller who originally translated Paulina's testimony for Levy) with whom she plans a performative journey following Paulina's story.


Throughout Levy's stay leading up to the journey – often in conversation/partnership with Dołowy – she presents research as it unfolds, inviting feedback from local audiences. 



April - May, 2019: Levy and Dołowy embark on a journey across Poland and Ukraine, following Paulina's wartime path, engaging with local audiences along the way. See the original itinerary here. 

From 2019 - 2020, Levy and Dołowy develop a multi-media performance that centers on the life-changing experience they had on the road together. (See performance section)

The newest chapter, a hybrid non-fiction film (in production since 2022), picks up two years after Michelle's return from Poland when she finally understands what she needs to do to complete the story.


The 2018/2019 research and engagement in Poland was developed in cooperation with POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw, with research support by the Archive and Genealogy Departments of The Emmanual Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw; and Festivalt, Krakow, which hosted PAULINA as its 2019 Project-in-Residence. The project has been made possible through grants from Asylum Arts, New York; the US Embassy, Warsaw, Poland; Brooklyn Arts Council fiscal sponsorship, and donations from 90+ individuals. PAULINA is currently a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Research-and-process presentations have been hosted by 

  • Asylum Arts (New York) 2018; 

  • Apteka pod Orłem/ The Eagle Pharmacy, Museum of the City of Krakow 2019;

  • Craków Saltworks Museum (Wieliczka) 2019;

  • Festivalt (Kraków) 2019;

  • The Galicia Jewish Museum (Kraków) 2019;

  • Inicjatawa LWL (Włodawa) 2019; 

  • Instytut Teatralny (Warsaw) 2019;

  • JCC Warsaw 2018; 

  • Jewish Historical Institute (Warsaw) 2019;

  • Kana Theater (Szczecin) 2020, developed with and directed by Kathleen Amshoff;

  • La MaMa Galleria (New York) 2020, curated by Monika Fabijańska;

  • The Neighborhood and Union Docs (Brooklyn) 2022.

  • POLIN Museum (Warsaw) 2019;

  • Public Library of the City of Wieliczka (Wieliczka) 2019.

  • Residency Unlimited (Brooklyn) 2023.


*She is alone, was presented by NURTUREart, Brooklyn in 2017;  Festivalt, Krakow, 2017; and at The Center and Foundation for Contemporary Art, Prague, 2018. It's precursor, Ruins of Achelach was presented by Dixon Place, NYC (2016) and Theaterlab, NYC (2017). 

**Parts of the Paulina story are included in Patrycja Dolowy's book Skarby/ Treasures: Seekers and Guardians of Polish Jewish History, published by Czarne Press (in Polish), 2022.

PAULINA is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation of the Arts.

Donations, which go towards production of the film, are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated. 

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