Eva Costabel – Holocaust Survivor Story


Eva was born in 1925 in Yugoslavia, to a middle-class Viennese family. In 1941 her father Arnold was arrested by the Ustashe, Yugoslav Nazis. He was later murdered in the gas chambers of the Treblinka concentration camp in Poland. The Ustashe came back and stole her family home at gunpoint, making Eva and the rest of her family homeless. The Ustashe also stole two of her family’s businesses.

Eva and her remaining family fled Zagreb in 1941 to the Adriatic Coast which was then occupied by the Italian army. During her time there, Eva was imprisoned in two Italian concentration camps, Kraljevica and Rab. Being in the Italian concentration camps actually saved Eva’s life, as they did not murder the prisoners, but instead, protected them from the Croation Ustashe and the Nazis. After the Italian capitulation in 1943, she joined the Yugoslav resistance against the Nazis as an army nurse, and later as a staff artist on a Yugoslav resistance newspaper in the mountains of Yugoslavia.
In 1945, she reached Rome, Italy, where she was accepted into the Academy of Fine Arts to study painting through the compassion and the generosity of the director of the Academy since she had no money or schooling to back her acceptance.

After receiving her visa on June 10, 1949, Eva sailed to New York, where she studied at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, under Philip Guston and Franz Kline—the famous New York abstract expressionist painter—who introduced her to abstract art. Thus, for the next 30+ years she would paint in the abstract style. Later, she used her artistic skills to illustrate a few books.
Eva had six of her books published by major publishers. In 2011, at her first exhibition, Eva unveiled 60 years-worth of her work at the Carter Burden Center for Aging’s Gallery 307 on Seventh Avenue in Chelsea.
“I went to a psychiatrist for years, many years. I had post-traumatic stress. It’s a horrible disease,” she states. Eva has struggled with the effects of the Holocaust for years, but says her art allowed her, to some extent, to cope with her experiences and trauma.”

“What I did is I put all my emotions, all my frustration in my paintings.” Eva still paints regularly, and teaches a workshop on abstract art for people with chronic diseases. This fierce woman has also battled and defeated cancer.
Today, Eva is ninety-five years old and lives alone in New York City. Eva depends on government aid, as well as on the assistance that she receives from The Blue Card.
The Blue Card helps Holocaust survivors like Eva with financial assistance for food, rent, bills, medical supplies, dental and other medical services, and more. As well as keeping them safe with Telephone Emergency Response Units and Home Care assistance.



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