27, May 2016 § Leave a comment
Judy Voboril passed away on May 20th in Paros, Greece. She was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1943 and fled her country during the Russian invasion in 1968. Italy accepted her as a refugee and she stayed in Rome for one and a half years before being given asylum in America. She lived in Los Angeles for ten years working as a graphic designer then returned to Europe in 1979 living in Paros for many years, painting full time. After the collapse of the Soviet Union she returned to Prague in 1991 for the first time since it had fallen under Communist rule. She lived in a home beneath the Castle which was close to her former home. Judy was an painter who worked in oils, acrylics and watercolour as well as being a superb draughtsman. She worked with the Aegean Center every year as a translator during the September stay in Italy. She came to love Italy when, as a young art student, she went to Florence to be a part of an international team to help recover art works damaged in the terrible flood of 1966.
Judy, Giuditta, or Jitka as we variously called her, was an important part of the Aegean Center as well as our personal lives. Her presence with the school every September in Italy was vital to its operation as she smoothed every aspect of running the program there from talking with the cooks to translating the official speeches of the Mayor’s receptions. Her sense of humour and her honesty were admired and valued by all of us. It was these qualities of her character we counted on to see us through the demanding weeks we spent in Italy every year. Her sophisticated understanding of Italian culture and art taught us how to negotiate the terrain and to know what was important, what was vital and what was hidden beyond the text book versions of the art and culture we saw. She often surprised us with her profound insights into things as her quiet demeanour hid the depth of her feelings and breadth of her knowledge. Italy aside, Judy was family to us here on Paros as well. We had a closeness that was rare to discover among those not related by birth, she was a sister in our hearts.
Gabriel Pack knew and loved Judy. In a recent conversation he described quite eloquently how Judy influenced his life in many positive ways. He spoke of how he enjoyed her forthright and curious nature, “She spoke her mind, didn’t suffer fools gladly, but was never mean spirited. She understood who she was and didn’t let negative experiences cloud her enjoyment of life… I learned a lot from Judy, a lot about life.” Well said, Gabriel. And, O, how clearly in our minds’ eye we can see her wry smile when she quietly endured an “idiot”; her proud eloquent posture and that long blond twist of hair always adorning her straight back.
Judy was an avid and discerning reader, a wonderful artist, a true friend and a generous spirit. Judy was so many things with so much wisdom about life and how one might live it well, no matter the adversity or hardship one must pass through along the way.
We will miss her terribly.
-John and Jane Pack
JITKA VOBORIL By Jeffrey Carson
My wife and I first met Judy several decades ago, a day or two after she arrived on Paros. She lived near us and so we often met. This was often on the beach of Parasporos, where she used to sunbathe and read contemporary fiction in three languages. In those days the beach undulated with sand dunes, and hosted few people; there was no road, and the long path there wended its way through a wet meadow fluttering with little blue butterflies. Judy was easy to talk to, knew a lot about culture, especially art of all periods, but also literature and film. She was a dedicated and successful artist herself.
One quality in her that I came more and more to appreciate was her nearly infallible ability to spot what was genuine in both art and persons, and what inauthentic. Where I might dismiss an artist for good reasons, she would see quickly why he painted, and praise it. If people were highfalutin and lacked this genuineness, she dismissed them easily, even acerbically. Did this lose her friends? Not at all; she had many dozens of friends, and those who met her more briefly remembered her – she had personality.
When a friend dies, there are certain conversations you can no longer have, and a mode of communication has gone. Now we have lost her I am especially having these conversations in my mind, for she was an original. Our common friend Lisa Dart, a poet, wrote me, “She was a lovely person. Vital, passionate and intense. I liked her fierceness, her big smile, mischievousness, her upright walk and the way that lovely plait lengthened her back. I can imagine how you and Liz must be feeling at such a loss. I hadn’t realised you had known her so long. And, I think there’s no way to figure out getting used to loss and remaining alive, human.”
I think none of us wants to get used to her loss, for so many of us were strengthened in our thoughts and sentiments through knowing her.
Judy in Pistoia at our favorite osteria, la Botte Gaia
5, May 2016 § Leave a comment
In an in-depth article, Jeffrey reflects on living in Paros since the 1970s along with his wife, photography professor Elizabeth Carson.
“When we first came here in the sixties, we stayed for six months, and then we went back so that both of us could finish our university education. We decided to come back to Paros in the early seventies because I wanted to try writing and my wife wanted to bring her cameras and become a real photographer. We both did that an until now we are still doing it. When we remembered Paros and our six months here, the photos were beautiful, it was quiet. It was nothing like the modern world, nothing like New York… We are both New Yorkers. There were almost no cars. They had just started the ferry boat.
We lived in an old house, a ‘katoikia,’ we had a donkey and we had a well. There were no people in the countryside, our light was from oil lamps and we thought this was very poetic. And although it was difficult, it was poetic.”
Jeffrey also describe his role as a teacher at the Aegean Center since its early years, writing the first guidebook of Paros, and translating all of Elytis’ poems.
“When I was 22 years old, I bought a book called “Four Modern Poets of Greece” — Seferis, Kavafis, Sikelianos and Elytis. And when I got to Elytis’ poems about the Aegean, I said ‘This is what I am trying to do. He does it better!’ So I started, as I learned Greek, teaching myself from school books, doing little translations to understand the poems better, and after I’d been doing this for four years — but not seriously — I met Nikos Sarris and he was in love with Elytis. So we talked and talked and talked and then we made a few translations together. We sent them to Elytis and he wrote back saying, “These are the best translations of my work I have ever read.” And that’s how we started. And then he said “Do you want more?” So we did. We translated everything.”
Jeffrey also discusses the changes he has seen in Paros and Greece in the more than forty years that he has lived on Paros and among many other anecdotes, about the time he brought the first piano to Paros:
“The piano was made in 1888 I bought in Athens at Nakas’s and six of us guys had to carry it across the field up to my house. Within two years children started knocking at my door. “Give me lessons! Give me lessons” for all kinds of instruments because they knew I had been a high school music teacher in New York. So I taught violin, clarinet, flute and accordion. So all the kids who knew how to read music in Paros learned from me.”
You can read the full interview here.