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LBI Book Club, Vol. VI: The Ground Under My Feet

By Eva Kollisch

Date/Time
Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020, 2 p.m.–3:30 p.m.
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Born in Vienna in the 1920s, Eva Kollisch was sent as a teenager on a 1938 Kindertransport to England. She then was able to come to the United States, where the family was reunited. The author writes about these experiences, as well as growing up in the world of left-wing politics and culture in New York, finding her way as a writer, literary critic, teacher pacifist, and feminist. Unswervingly, she examines the traces that persecution and rejection have left on both her and those around her. Written as a series of essays, The Ground Under My Feet is a meditation on being a survivor. Grace Paley described the book as “…beautifully written. It has more history in it than most historians give us.”

About Eva Kollisch:

Eva Kollisch is the daughter of writer Margaret Kollisch and the architect Otto Kollisch (1881-1952). She spent her school years in Baden bei Wien, Austria. In July 1939, she fled on a Kindertransport to the UK and in 1940 and she emigrated with her two brothers Peter and Stephen to the U.S., where her parents had found refuge in November 1939.

In New York, from 1941 to 1946, she was a member of the Trotskyist Workers Party, and married author Stanley Plastrik, one of the editors of the magazine “Dissent.” In 1950, she married her second husband, the painter Gert Berliner (born 1924) who, with others such as the painter David Gross, collectively ran the cafe Rienzi, 107 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. The cafe was a gathering spot for New York bohemians and patrons included James Baldwin, Jack Kerouac, and Bob Dylan.

Eva Kollisch studied German literature and science at Brooklyn College and later at Columbia University. Then she led, together with Gerda Lerner and Joan Kelly, a course for women's studies at Sarah Lawrence College. At this college, she eventually became a professor and taught English, German, and Comparative Women’s Literature.

In 1986 Eva Kollisch met her current partner, the American poet Naomi Replansky. In 2016, both women won the Clara Lemlich Social Activist Award. Eva and Naomi continue to live in New York City today.

Connection to LBI's Collections

The Margarete Kollisch Collection. Margarete was the mother of Eva Kollisch. The collection includes material related to the life of Eva.

The Peter Kollisch Collection. Peter was the brother of Eva Kollisch.

Oral history interview, part of our Austrian Heritage Collection.