Suitcase stories: Yvonne’s suitcase

Suitcase stories: Yvonne’s suitcase

Koffer Yvonne - Loes van Duijvendijk

Many of the cases that are part of the FENIX collection tell a story about their owner. Like the suitcase of Yvonne, who was born in Vienna, grew up in Czechoslovakia, became an adult in Switzerland and grew old in the Netherlands.

Koffer Yvonne - Loes van Duijvendijk

This story is about saying goodbye. Goodbye to loved ones, but also to a home, a native village and a motherland. Yvonne’s case is a black trunk, with her initials ‘Y.P.’ painted on it in white. It’s what she used when she fled the Czechoslovakia in 1938 during the German occupation.

Yvonne op de arm van haar moeder Lali, circa 1923

Yvonne’s mother, a Jewish woman, fled to the Caribbean via Paris. Yvonne herself went to Switzerland with her grandmother to study there. In Switzerland, she felt alone. She had the feeling that she didn’t belong anywhere.

“As if I had fallen between two stools everywhere in Switzerland, that I was an ‘in-betweener’. My childhood home was gone, and my mother was on the run and in a strange country.”
- Yvonne Praxmarer

After a number of years, Yvonne also had to say goodbye to her new homeland: she was deported from Switzerland. She found a job with an Amsterdam publishing house. “Suddenly I was living in the Netherlands.” She lived out of her case, which she kept under her bed. When Yvonne met the man she would later marry in Amsterdam, she chose to stay in the Netherlands.

Years later, Yvonne’s house in the Netherlands is still full of things that remind her of where she grew up, of Czechoslovakia and of the Habsburg Empire. “In that part of the world, but also in that culture, is where my history lies.” In this way, Yvonne always carries a bit of her motherland with her.

Suitcases wanted!

FENIX is looking for suitcases – a huge number of suitcases. These cases will be the building blocks for a large maze you will be able to walk through when FENIX opens. Do you have a case that tells a story?