An Ageless Artist’s story, as told by her daughter, Suzanne Rohn.
Katalin Rohn was born in Budapest, Hungary 29th of June/1925 first child of a loving couple Erno a lawyer and Sarolta a school teacher. Four years later came sister, Olga. They were not rich but loved and taught their two daughters the appreciation of art and nature. They had a lovely childhood.
Then came the war. In 1944 Katalin married a mechanical engineer in the middle of “bombing hell”. They got separated , she was 18 and she spent the rest of the war alone running from bomb shelter to bomb shelter, alone and starving. Somehow through the grace of God she was spared. She was reunited with our father eventually. I was born after the war and life went on. Then came communism and the Hungarian revolution of 1956–they escaped and settled in Johannesburg, South Africa. Life wasn’t easy, she was home raising a family–my sister was born in 1961 and them my brother in 1970. In South Africa she appreciated the beauty of the land, wildlife and nature. She was always artistic she did a lot of needlework and embroidery, but never any other art. She loved her children and home which she decorated most beautifully on a shoestring budget. All their friends were amazed how she did it. Then in 1972 we left South Africa–I was already married and the whole family came to Canada, including my step-grandmother that we loved dearly after my grandfather had died.
We arrived in Montreal–and it was very difficult. So through a dear new friend she was introduced to the world of antiques. She always loved it as a child was surrounded by them–so this chance of a lifetime came to open a little antique shop and also to fill her own house with things she always loved, especially art.
A few years passed my father died and we decided–to move to Toronto. My sister Dolores was 17, my brother Oliver 7, my daughter Laurissa 4, grandmother 84 and myself– She was at this time 53, never married again. I worked, she ran the house like clockwork, doing everything for the family. She also took three lessons in “stain glass” making, after which she produced the most exquisite stain glass lamps, for us–never for sale! Plus lots of embroidery, crocheting, knitting, sewing, needlepoint and the like–never resting always busy, as well as collecting things from wherever she found them–Yes, garage sales , bazaars and auctions.
The family grew up–children finished university–Dolores became a massage therapist, Oliver, a dentist and I am a naturopathic doctor. All the grandchildren are grown–even a great grandchild, Adriyanna is now in university.
So, Katalin “one dark and stormy night” following an internal voice that told her to pick up a paintbrush and paint. So she did and started to paint. She painted and painted and painted in oil on canvas all the thoughts and memories that she carried within her heart throughout her life. The beauty that she wanted to express to the world from the world of spirit. She was now a mere child of 83 years–starting up as a budding, young artist. Her idea was not to sell her art, but simply to express her passion and for the world to see, but above all to leave a legacy for her children grand-children and grand grand-children.
On a beautiful Saturday morning in August 2010 I was going to my office, so she decided to came along with me to pick up some art supplies–the store was next to my office on Queen St E. Fate intervened–we had a freak accident in the parking lot of my building–we hit a brick wall full force head on. We thought we would die–we didn`t. We were both seriously injured, her more so than I.
She was taken to St Michael`s Hospital–2 fractured vertebra. There was a waiting period before they knew whether she would be paralyzed or not at age 85–thank God she wasn’t. They told us she would have to be in a Jewett body brace for at least 4 months and an Aspen collar even longer. She was at St John’s rehab for 6 weeks–and physiotherapy for months. Going through a lot of rehab, pain and PTSD–and tremendous psychological problems. Depression, fear, anxiety, headaches, sleeping problems and pain. When she finally got home she was unable to do anything–she needed constant care and help. Eventually the brace came off and finally after almost 9 month the collar. Slowly she started to recuperate after many more months.
Then she picked up her brush once more–and started painting again, late spring this year–slowly at first with great difficulty, and now with more ease. She still has much pain and cannot sleep–she still lives alone with her two fur kids, Cici and Fonzie, and she paints and paints and paints, especially during the night when she can’t sleep – makes her forget her pain and the love for her art is making her feel better and she is still improving daily. She now has at least 200 pieces of art work and she is thrilled that she is working on her legacy for her “brood”.
A couple of months ago we set up a website for her art–everyone is amazed who sees it and is incredulous at her talent. There was an open competition for artists at Patrick International Fine Art Gallery here in Yorkville–she was one of the winners . She is now exhibiting with some well known artist for the whole month of December at the gallery. She is also listed as a featured artist on “Artist`s Toronto” web site. The feedback is tremendously positive. The comments and joy that she brings to people, the happiness she brings out is enough to warm the heart. All are grateful to hear her inspirational story of hope. There is far too much dark news out there the world needs a bit of sunshine and light.
The CBC did a news interview with her at the gallery and at her studio in early December, 2012. The reporter was astounded and so very happy to do the interview–she said she shall never forget this story ever. There were also a requests from the Hungarian Canadian TV to do an interview and from a number of other outlets.
The moral of the story is–one is never too old nor too sick if there is joy in the heart. We all have the reason , but needs heart to bring it out. Every age has its beauty, experiences and value–thus one should explore spirit and see what the mission is for being on this earth, it is really irrespective of age. A life lived with gratitude, filled with happiness and joy is ageless. Some live a whole lifetime wasting every moment, gaining nothing– while others live a whole lifetime in a moment gaining all. It is the way we live life that counts, memories, feelings and love. We take nothing else with us–and it is never too late to start living. Never too late to start something that one loves, that gives hope that brings joy to self, but above all others.
When my brother Oliver was born when she was 46, and she cried saying she wouldn’t even see him graduate from primary school–and look at her now. She has seen him graduate from university and have a family of his own. She has seen her grandchildren graduate and have families, and now even her great grandchildren. I am sure, if God in His mercy allows her the blessing of more years, she will see even see her great granddaughters graduate . She has lived to enjoy our family that is ever expanding- that now numbers 15 in number. Katalin will be celebrating her 88 birthday in June, 2013 and we hope many more for she is truly forever young ageless and timeless! A shining spirit and light to all that know her.
There is a Greek proverb by Democritus: Happiness resides not in possession and not in gold, the feeling of happiness dwells in the soul. –and to that I add: for the soul is ageless.
Please visit :
the exhibition at: Patrick International Fine Art Dec 4- Dec 29, 2012
190 Davenport Road, Toronto
With love from: Suzanne, Dolores, Oliver-children Laurissa, Tiffany, Olivia, Scarlett, grand children: Adriyanna, Klaryssa, Jullia- great grand children