Holocaust survivor Hedy Page visits Oceanside High School


Hedy Page, a Holocaust survivor, visited Oceanside High School on May 1, providing students with a rare opportunity to come face-to-face with living history.

Page, 94, of Long Beach, shared her journey with students while imparting them with lessons of empathy, acceptance and human connection.

Born in Vienna, Austria in 1929, Page fled the Nazi regime with her family in 1938, and after seeking out several embassies, the family found refuge in Panama the same year Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.

Page gave a candid presentation, reflecting on the prevalence of prejudice and division within society, drawing from her own upbringing in Panama where she witnessed racial divides among friends and conveyed the importance of seeing beyond superficial differences.

“Because I grew up in Panama, where my friends were black and white and Chinese and I realized that even in our own groups, we divide people into acceptable and not acceptable,” Page said. “If you were very black, the lighter Black people did not accept you. It’s within us. We create judgment.”

Page shared personal anecdotes, such as her memories of a teacher who instilled joy in learning through creative assignments, and her current passion for painting and storytelling. She encouraged students to express themselves creatively and to appreciate the kindness and humanity in others.

Reflecting on her experience and sharing her perspectives, Page expressed hope for the future, particularly in the diverse and inclusive environment of the school.

“I have hope for the future,” she said. “The mixture, first of all — to walk in and you see every person isn’t just one color. There are many parts. Each one is a mixture.”

Despite the upheaval, Page’s passion for art remained steadfast. She journeyed to Chicago in 1947 to study at the American Academy of Art College and at The Art Institute of Chicago, which is where she met her late husband, Eric Pagremanski. They adopted the surname Page upon becoming American citizens, but she retained her distinctive signature of H. Pagremanski in all her artwork.

Page continued her artistic pursuits, studying at the Art Students League of New York under renowned artist Isaac Soyer. She became deeply involved in the art community, offering lessons, lecturing to groups and volunteering in local jails. She has volunteered to teach inmates how to draw at the Nassau County Correctional Center in East Meadow and Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, where she learned lessons in compassion.

“I was taught how to counsel,” she said. “Counseling is an amazing thing. First of all, if you judge, you’re not going to do it, because it’s very difficult to sit next to somebody who you know has to kill people. But you can if you find out what their background is. Among all the things I loved, was counseling at Sing Sing.”

Her work garnered recognition and acclaim, earning a place in numerous private and public collections both in the United States and abroad. Page, who has lived in Long Beach for more than 30 years, has painted more than 80 scenes of New York City landscapes. Each person in her paintings is a real native of the area, and she said they all have their own stories. At Oceanside High School, she shared her most recent painting of the Long Beach Boardwalk.

“Eric, my husband, had said to me, ‘Let’s do a painting that shows who we are,’” she said. “When history is going to speak about our time, they’re going to speak of slavery, they’re going to speak of hate. They’re going to speak of hate groups. They’re going to speak about the Holocaust. But they’re never going to speak about us — people who care for others, people who do not judge anything, people who give kindness. Eric said, ‘Let’s identify the people who are kind. Let’s do a painting of them.’”

Her exhibitions have been featured at esteemed venues, including the Museum of the City of New York, the Tenement Museum and the landmark Bowery Savings Bank Building.

Page reiterated her commitment to advocating for the elimination of hate and shared her favorite part of speaking at public schools.

“That I could speak of abolishing and getting rid of hate,” Page said, “because that’s the only thing that matters at the moment. There is so much stupidity and people picking hate, when there is so much else. There is so much else.”