VENICE - Jan Koren has followed a twisting path from his childhood in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to retirement in Florida. So when he went into an antiques shop recently, thousands of miles from his homeland, he couldn't believe it when he found part of his past.
In 1944 while living in Czechoslovakia, Koren, then 13, painted a landscape of the Nitra River for his mother on a scrap of plywood, the only canvas available. The painting hung in his family home until his mother's death in 1958. Koren lost track of the painting sometime after that. Until now.
Nearly six decades after he gave the painting to his mother, Koren found the painting at This and That Antiques and Collectibles in Venice.
"I could not believe it," he said. "I would have paid anything for it, not that it was some valuable work of art, but because of what it meant to me."
Though World War II bombings killed many in his town - including his brother - Koren survived the war and became an architect. In 1963, he was with a group of Czech architects sent to Cuba to help Fidel Castro's government. On the way home, when the plane stopped in Newfoundland, Canada, Koren asked for political asylum.
Koren then worked for a time in Canada until he immigrated to the United States. Koren bought the painting for $70 several weeks ago in the Venice shop, where a dealer said he bought it from Sarasota Auction in Nokomis. Jeff Carlson, owner of Sarasota Auction, said he vaguely recalled the painting, but couldn't remember where he acquired it.