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Janusz Stefan Eichler


1923 - 2002

Painting, Graphics

Janusz Eichler was a born artist and never stopped to be one. In his early childhood he spent entire days drawing, painting, and making small figures with plasticine. When he learned how to operate the knife, he started to carve small figures in wood, and elaborate miniature details of faces and hands with incredible precision. Being so busy and concentrated on his endeavors, his school grades suffered some neglect, so mother full of understanding, hired tutors to push Januszek through the school years. His happy childhood terminated abruptly in the year 1939, when the war started and the whole family was forced to escape home at the advance of the USSR army, who occupied the eastern part of Poland. where father, Stefan Eichler was employed as governor of one of the districts. They found a temporary shelter in the town of Wilno, located in the northeastern part of Poland. From there his father crossed the Lithuanian border together with the Polish army and became a POW in Lithuania until the occupation of Lithuania by USSR. All Polish POWs were then deported to the camp in Soviet Union. The rest of the family: mother, Janusz, and his sister Krystyna, remained in Wilno struggling to survive.
In June 1941 all three of them were arrested by the USSR authorities and deported in a crowded cattle train to Siberia to the camp of forced labor. Janusz saved his knife and even there, in Siberia, in the rare moments of freedom, he sculptured his beautiful miniatures. Unfortunately they were all lost due to the atrocious and painful conditions in which the family miraculously survived until the moment of amnesty for all Polish prisoners in the Soviet Union which due to the political changes, was forced to modify its cruel and savage methods.
The Eichler family found and reunited the father, and they all were evacuated to Iran with the Polish army of general W. Anders. They arrived to Teheran in April 1942. Here Janusz celebrated his 18 year birthday and became a soldier in the Polish army. He was sent to Palestine. There, he terminated his studies at high school organized by the army, and was sent to Italy, where at that time, the Allies were fighting with Nazi forces. As a soldier, he took part in all military actions in the years 1943-45. He took part in the famous battle for Monte Cassino when Polish soldiers in the final attack won the victory.
At the end of the World War II, he was in Rome and started to study at the Royal Art Academy. while still in the army services. However, soon all Polish corps were evacuated to Great Britain. He continued his studies at the Sir John Cass University in London, and graduated in the year 1951. That same year he together with his parents emigrated to Argentina to join his sister Krystyna.
The first years in Argentina were extremely harsh and difficult. At the London University Janusz specialized in textile design, which resulted to be out of use in Argentina. Both parents were going through a crisis in their matrimonial life. Father was 59 years old at that time. He didn’t speak Spanish, and his professional background of ex-governor didn’t offer any hope for the future. He decided to go back to England, where he had some better financial possibilities to survive. And thus, under the pressure of war and emigration’s sufferings, the closely tied and loving family disintegrated. Soon Krystyna decided to leave Argentina, and she sailed to San Francisco, USA, looking for a better life.. Janusz was left in Argentina with mother, who was gradually sinking into a mental abyss and stagnation. His first job was collaboration with a friend, a Pole producing toys made by rubber. Janusz was painting these toys. The business worked well as long as the Peron’s Administration lasted. Peron closed the import of goods from other countries, and thanks to this small Argentinean producers prospered. After the revolution and fall of Peron in 1955, new authorities opened the import, and all kinds of North American and European products flooded Argentina. The local small producers went bankrupt including the rubber toys business.
At first Janusz and mother were living in La Boca, in a picturesque and poor port district of Buenos Aires. He was renting two small rooms apartment in an old house, but soon they left Buenos Aires and moved to Maximo Paz, which is 6o kilometers west of Buenos Aires, and where they shared a rented, quite spacious house with a family of Polish émigrés. Over there, Janusz was able to arrange a studio where he could paint , and also store and paint the rubber toys.
Unfortunately, the business with rubber toys came to end, and Janusz found himself out of work and living far from the city. At that time however he had already some connections and some friends who came with help. He got a job in Electrodine, the national firm building the towers of high tension. He was ex-soldier trained in electronics. During the Italian campaign he served as a telephone and radio operator.
Ever since the late forties, there was a rent control in Buenos Aires. To find an apartment for rent was very hard almost impossible. All available housing units were for sale as condominiums (propiedades horizontales), which Janusz could not afford. Somehow, he found a two room poorly equipped apartment in Avellaneda, old part of the city near port and the river, where the streets were occasionally flooded Being so established, Janusz painted prolifically. Soon he left his job at Electrodine, because thanks to some friendly connections, he got a job at Editorial Codex S.A., well known publishing company.
In 1956, he had his first art show in Argentina in the Gallery Pizarro in Buenos Aires, getting very good critics in the Argentinean press. This started his carrier as an artist. During the next dozen or so years, he had art shows in various galleries in Buenos Aires as well as in other locations. He became a well known painter, and he started to sell his paintings. He also was taking care of his mother, who was a victim of a mental disease. She passed away in 1965. Janusz was very attached to his mother, and there was a strong tie and love between him and her before she became ill.
In the early seventies the Editorial Codex S.A. terminated its existence due to the bankruptcy, and Janusz lost his employment.
This time he decided to change radically his life style and environment. He bought a small ranch house located in the bank of a branch of Rio Parana delta called Rio Barca Grande. It was a beautiful, charming area in the district of Tigre, distant at 30 – 40 kilometers from Buenos Aires. The only access to this property was by small motorboats, which circulated through the waters of delta the way buses circulate in the cities. There
was no canalization, or electricity, just a beautiful rich vegetation and waters. Here was the place where he could paint, make collages, and meditate. Occasionally, he would
sell paintings. This panoramic paradise brought back reminiscences of his happy childhood spent in beautiful forests on the lakes in Poland, but real paradise existed only in the Bible. In the bogs, dense with vegetation,there lived indigenous people. mostly Indians. They cultivated the fruit trees and poultry but many of them were simply the thieves and bandits. One day, Janusz stepped down from his house elevated on the woodden posts, approached a little landing deck at the river’s bank, and found a human cadaver floating on the water underneath the deck. He got terribly frightened and panicked. He collected few belongings, ran off to Buenos Aires and never went back to his house. Eventually, he lost it due to unpaid property taxes.
In the city, he faced the housing problem again. All he could find was a room with a shed located in so-called “conventillo”.
Since the old times Buenos Aires was subdivided into small narrow lots. They all had 8.66 meters in width and they were about 70 meters long It was probably an old
system brought by the Spanish “conquistadores”. This system was fitted to the special planning and construction of the habitable homes, which were all similar. There was an entrance from the street on one side of the property sometimes through a hall called “zaguan”,. but most often there was a narrow passage open to the sky, and one entered a long patio extended all along one side of the property line. On the other half of the lot there was a row of one story rooms, some connected by the doors inside. There were no bathrooms, but at the end of the property, there were located the toilet compartment and the kitchen. All along the rooms there were roofed walks, so the inhabitants could walk to the kitchen or the toilet during the rainy season without being wetted. In the poor areas of the city these houses became inhabited each by few different families and became overcrowded. They were popularly called by the name of “conventillo”. In the modern times this old type of subdivision created incredible problems to architects, who were obliged to design three story apartment buildings on such narrow and long strips of land.
So Janusz settled in such house, which however was located in a good part in the city of Buenos Aires. In 1975 he had a retrospective exhibit in the Museum of Modern Art organized by the Municipality of Buenos Aires. It was a big success. At that time, his sister Krystyna, who was living in California, made all necessary arrangements, so that Janusz could come to join her in USA. However, he decided to stay in Argentina. He lived for some years in the same old dilapidated place in really primitive conditions. It finally came to the end. The property was sold, new owners decided to demolish the old structure, and erect a new building. Janusz had to move out.
Some of his friends owned summer houses located in the suburban areas in the province of Buenos Aires. Janusz was invited by some of them to occupy their summer house. He consecutively lived in some of them. He painted and continued to have art shows in the galleries in Buenos Aires, but he started to have health problems: high blood pressure and worsened eye sight. Eventually he had a surgery. Doctors operated a well grown tumor on his body, which required a skin graft. He developed a macular degeneration symptom. He never planned how to secure his old age, which was approaching 4.
One evening, Janusz was sitting at his table, two men rushed in. One of them put a gun to his head and the other started to grab everything that was in sight. They completely cleared the house, took everything Janusz possessed, loaded their track, and left. Janusz was devastated. He went back to Buenos Aires. For some time, he was living in the house of his friend, Marta Visconti, who gave him a shelter, but it came to end, and Janusz become homeless and half blind. The ladies from cultural and artistic circles, who in the past were buying his paintings, arranged for him a stay in the senior citizen home, “Hogar San Martin, which was run by the government.
There, he got a bed in a large room shared with some other people, a place at the dinning table, and he could occasionally sit in the lounge room.
There was no room to keep any personal belongings. His friends offered help taking them to their homes. Antonio and Inez Privitera were storing all his documents and some small personal objects saved from robbery. they also offered him hospitality at their home. Zozi and Patrick Badaracco were safekeeping his drawing collection, and Zozi was trying to sell some of them in order to help Janusz financially. His pupil painter, Liliana de Goyeneche, was keeping all his paints, painting tools, and books. In her home, located in Marcos Paz, Janusz found a loving hospitality and some times he was spending the weekends over there. He was entitled to collect social security payments, but it required to process a complicated paperwork, which lasted for years, and didn’t end during his life time. His sister Krystyna, was sending him some money for his monthly allowances.
One day, Janusz got sick. Within two days he passed away.
Janusz Eichler died on August 24 - 2002 Antonio Privitera took care of the funeral arrangements. At the funeral were present Antonio, his wife Inez and Liliana with her husband Eugenio. Janusz is buried at the Buenos Aires cemetery called Chacarita.

Christina Eichler

Janusz Eichler at Galeria Libertad in Buenos Aires, 1959.

Villa miseria
Portret matki /Portrait of mother (Konstancia Skrzynecka Eichler)
Autoportret /Selfportrait

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