Barbara Boldt was about nine years of age when the Second World War started.
Her German parents sent her to a children’s evacuation camp to keep her safe from Allied bombing. She may have been surrounded by children, but it wasn’t like being with family.
“I have two brothers and a little sister and we didn’t grow up together,” Boldt said.
That lack of family, feeling part of a clan, left her and her siblings not knowing much about each other and missing a mother’s love.
“The closeness wasn’t there at all,” she said.
It was a regimented upbringing during her formative years when the world was at war.
“In those years, you were just told what to do,” she explained.
After the war, she returned to her family and lived in an area occupied by the American army.
Boldt recalls being about 15 after the war and scrounging for edibles, such as mushrooms or almost anything green.
“We ate nettles, lots of greens,” she recalled.
The children would pick mushrooms in the woods and go to the U.S. military kitchen.
“They gave us potato peels in exchange,” Boldt said. “My mom made casseroles.”
There were other privations, notably the opportunity for education and even school supplies as Europe tried to recover from the conflict. She remembers her father bringing used receipt books from work and using the back sides or the back of wallpaper pieces.
After her teacher was killed in an air raid, a new young teacher told the students to collect burned wood from bombed sites to have charcoal for art.
“I’ll never forget that,” she said.
She finished high school in 1947, and worked as a domestic and steno typist.
The move to Canada came in 1952 and she’s never returned to Germany.
After her three children had grown, Boldt wanted to do something.
She saw easels and artworks at a Maple Ridge park and became inspired at 45 to take up art. That was in the mid 1970s.
“I was totally absorbed,” she said.
She cites her passion for art as the reason her marriage ended.
She was told she would never make it on her own but has supported herself financially since.
Boldt had an art gallery in Fort Langley and one in White Rock. Around 1988 she expanded into teaching art.
She doesn’t consider herself religious but does give thanks every day for what she has. The 87-year-old has lived without the basics such as heat, adequate food and clean water.
About the only thing she admires about modern women’s lives is “they can have GPS in the car,” she chuckled. The woman, who doesn’t have a cellphone and is not a big fan of computers, finds the over-reliance on technology has left people disconnected.
The biggest influence on her art has not been a person, but a thing. Nature was, and is, her inspiration, her sanctuary, her constant, and her balm.
“Sitting in my chair, looking out to nature, that is what empowers me,” Boldt said.
She is descended from ancestors with artistic talents and feels an obligation to honour that lineage by using her talents.
“I keep telling myself, you better be true to that.”
She’s painted family and others, and her late children inspired a special collection, but it’s nature that has for decades provided the amazing array of subjects that keeps Boldt putting brush to canvas.
“It gives me energy and the strength to keep on painting, that for now, I feel is the purpose of my remaining years.”
EMPOWERED AT ANY AGE STORIES: