Statue of “Immigrant Mother.” Look closer: she’s crying.

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Yes, it’s true. She’s crying. This powerful statue of an American archetype is part of the Croatian Cultural Garden in Cleveland’s Rockefeller Park. The text on the back of the statue reads: “Dedicated to all the immigrant mothers who brought their families to America seeking freedom and a new life. Erected by the Croatian community of Greater Cleveland 2012.” The sculptor was Joseph Turkaly.

The “tears” appear to be courtesy of some spiders and some seeds fallen from the trees. But she has reason to cry. The “all” in the dedication passage has been revoked in an act of cruelty that shames our nation.

If some man, proclaiming his inviolable law, rips the children from the arms of this mother, who is the one that is made of stone?

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P.S.

The sculptor, Joseph Turkaly, was born in Croatia in 1924 and immigrated to America in 1957. He lived in Lyndhurst, Ohio, and when he died in 2007 was buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. His grave has one of his most beautiful works–which may be one of the most pious and poignant memorials in the whole cemetery.

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It’s a wonderful sculpture. The angel, with lovely, sweeping wings, is cradling what looks at first like a baby in some sort of swaddling, almost like a papoose. But on a closer look, it’s a gaunt, frail old man, and the papoose is more like a chrysalis. The man is gazing up with with adoration, exhaustion and relief. The angel is looking down with infinite care.  The old man is being born into his new life, a baby angel, and his chrysalis is his own emerging wings.

I never met Turkaly, but after studying this sculpture, I am certain–though I’m not entirely sure why–that he was a kind, loving man with a rich sense of humor.

 


Christopher Cotton

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