A painting hidden from the Nazis restored on The Repair Shop
A painting that was sewn inside the lining of a coat to hide it from the Nazis during World War II has been restored in an emotional episode of The Repair Shop.
Tuesday’s episode of the BBC show saw retired florist Maria Kirk, 74, bring in a damaged 19th century painting of Madonna and Child, which she described as the last connection to her Ukrainian family.
During the show, Maria explained that the painting had been given to her grandfather by his father in the 1880s and it hung in a village church in Skowiatyn, Western Ukraine.
She then explained how the family took it with them when they fled to Poland at the beginning of the war and kept swapping it from person to person when they were captured and sent to a labour camp.
She said: ‘My grandfather Joseph had died. My grandmother Halyna, mother Irena and aunt Stefania fled to Poland. The Russians were coming on one side and the Germans on the other.’
‘They decided to take the painting. They took it out of the frame, rolled it up and stitched it inside the lining of a winter coat.
‘Eventually they were all captured by the Germans and sent to a forced labour camp in Northern Germany. They kept swapping the coat.’ Ms Kirk said that, while her grandmother died in the camp, her mother and aunt survived. Her aunt gave her the painting in 1990.
In the episode, she wept as the show’s restoration expert Lucia Scalisi stripped back the dirt and removed the discolouration.
Maria, in tears, said the painting was ‘tangible proof that my family existed’ and had been, to them, a ‘beacon of peace, faith and beauty.’
The BBC show often welcomes special guests to the restoration barn – including actress Judi Dench and Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood.
But one remarkable guest was King Charles, who Jay Blades said the British public have ‘never seen’ him like how he is during his appearance on The Repair Shop.
Presenter Jay, 52, and the team visited Dumfries House in Scotland for a one-off episode to mark the BBC’s centenary filmed when Charles was still the Prince of Wales.
In The Repair Shop: A Royal Visit, which aired in October, Charles needed help with an 18th-century bracket clock and a piece made for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee by British ceramics maker Wemyss Ware.
He said the damaged 19th century ceramic piece fell over when someone was opening a window – ‘they didn’t own up’, he joked.
Speaking to The Mirror, Jay described the King as ‘a real joy’ to meet and said it was a ‘wow moment’ to have him on the show.
He said: ‘People often say never judge a book by its cover so you never listen to what people say until you’ve met the real person yourself.
‘It was a real joy and an honour to be working with him, wait until you see it, you’re going to be amazed. You never see him like this.’
Jay previously spoke about the importance of Charles appearing on the show and speaking to someone ‘from a council estate’.
He said: ‘You’ve got someone from a council estate and someone from a royal estate that have the same interests about apprenticeships and heritage crafts, and it is unbelievable to see that two people from so far apart, from different ends of the spectrum, actually have the same interests.’
In the episode, Charles met students from the Prince’s Foundation Building Craft Programme – a training initiative that teaches traditional skills such as blacksmithing, stonemasonry and wood carving.
The monarch said: ‘I still think the great tragedy is the lack of vocational education in schools, actually not everybody is designed for the academic.
‘I know from The Prince’s Trust, I have seen the difference we can make to people who have technical skills which we need all the time, I have the greatest admiration for people.
‘I think that’s been the biggest problem, sometimes that is forgotten. Apprenticeships are vital but they just abandoned apprenticeships for some reason. It gives people intense satisfaction and reward.’
Charles said the thing he ‘really loves’ is students returning as tutors year after year – ‘filling the school gaps’, he said.
Before the results are unveiled, Charles asked the crew: ‘Have you sorted this? The suspense is killing me.’
The monarch also lent Prince’s Foundation graduate Jeremy Cash to The Repair Shop to work with metalwork expert Dominic Chinea on a third item described as a fire set in the shape of a soldier with a poignant story behind its existence.