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Zbigniew Drecki
2013 True Art Stories
This year we experienced the fascinating True Art Stories as told by award winning artist and author Laurence Anholt: revealing fascinating insights into the lives of the famous artists who have become household names for us all [read more].

2012 Alan Cotton: A Painter's Journey to Everest
The Academy's President Emeritus took us on a fascinating journey through much of his own life as an artist, each painting helping the audience to see 'through his eyes' [read more].

2011 Yazmina Reza's ART
The 2011 Lecture took the form of a performance reading of Yasmina Reza's hilariously funny, award-winning comedy play, 'ART', performed by the Cornish artists, Anthony Frost, Bob Devereux and Phil Bowen [read more].

2010 The Artist & The Poet
A documentary film and presentation by the film-maker and photographer Noel Chanan. The film originated in a recorded conversation between Poet Laureate Ted Hughes and American printmaker and sculptor Leonard Baskin [read more].

The South West Academy owes a great debt of gratitude to Zbigniew Drecki, the painter and philanthropist, and his wife Jo Drecki. The Drecki Memorial Lecture was established to honour his memory. The following text is a personal recollection of Zbigniew Drecki by David Bazell.

If Auschwitz prisoner No. 214, in pursuing an interest and flair for painting after the war, had daubed away in blacks and greys, perhaps with an occasional dash of red, it might have been perfectly understandable.

But Zbigniew Drecki did no such thing. His canvasses emerged with colours that were largely to become the way one saw him - an eternal spring season despite the wartime hell he had had to endure. His experiences in the camps had been such that almost as a medical necessity he had to live away from Britain in the wintertime, and eventually it drove him to build a home in Florida. But he never laid aside his art and with his wife Jo continued to share his time with his home in Exmouth where he lived for many years and at one time ran a painting school. He had met Jo at the Ockenden Venture, set up after the war for the care and education of refugee children from Displaced Persons Camps in German, when Jo was an English Teacher.

Painting by Zbigniew Drecki
Zbigniew Drecki almost always had a ready smile, and a deep seated sense of humour often came to the fore during our many conversations. He was always willing to speak about the Death Camp - even including small acts of kindness that showed up against the backdrop of generally overwhelming inhumanity - and more than once referred, with a hint of that impish smile that often crossed his face, to the times he cheated the ovens, assisted on one occasion - he had been the very next in line to be shot against the wall next to the infamous Block 10 - by an unexpected visited to the camp by Hitler which interrupted that particular programme and consequently saved his life.

Invariably, however, he would return to the passion in life which consumed him as much as his oils: the creation of a world order for peace and stability. Almost his final words to me, as he lay dying in his Exmouth home, Zbigniew was to say: 'Life is wonderful; it is only people who spoil it.' He referred to conflicts around the globe and the consequent inhumanities that sometimes matched the worst excesses of the Third Reich about which he knew only too well as a survivor of the first transport to Auschwitz in June, 1941, and who after being transferred for a spell at Buchenwald, escaped on a night train taking him to Dachau.

He asked me to write of his ideas for future conduct worldwide to the Secretary General of the United Nations. Listening to him trying to recount what he had failed to do in his life made me feel I had at least to do this much for him; he felt strongly that his survival placed on him a duty to achieve something for all those who perished. Well, Kofi Annan has Zbigniew's views. And the vision of this remarkable man from Warsaw is set down and available in the latter part of his moving book, Freedom and Justice. He wrote letters to anyone influential, from world leaders to ordinary newspaper reporters - to anyone he thought might listen - to try to make a lasting contribution on the victims' behalf. He tried.

Formidable in stature and presence, Zbigniew Drecki, from Warsaw, was a gentle and quiet-spoken man. He very often painted away furiously; at one time, a room of his home in Albion Hill was stacked to the ceiling with his work. Scores upon scores of paintings, mostly colourful and pacific, emerged. He seemed to get a real buzz from them, showing them, holding them up. 'What do you think?'. Who knows, perhaps he received a kind of energy from them, even providing a light for his darkness.
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