But she never forgot the desperate faces of prisoners lining the wire fences at Pithiviers as she left on a horse drawn cart.
Their fear and innocence can be seen in Mirka’s untitled, 1996 painting of a group of people staring out at the viewer, and in many of her works.
The painting will feature in the Jewish Museum of Australia’s first ever exhibition on the artist, called MIRKA, which will open in early December.
Museum CEO Jessica Bram said the multimedia exhibition would offer “the most comprehensive picture of the artist’s life and 70-year-long career”.
It will take in her early years in Paris, her role in Melbourne’s post-war bohemian arts scene and her success as an artist.
“A story of survival and migration, interspersed with a generous dose of family, art, food and love, Mirka Mora’s history is a profoundly affecting post-Holocaust Australian Jewish tale which, until now, has not been presented with such depth and scope,” Ms Bram said.
It will feature never-exhibited works from the Mora family’s private collections, from Mirka’s Richmond studio and archives, and Mirka pieces recently acquired by the Heide Museum of Modern Art.
Her son William Mora said that Mirka’s creation in her art of “an imaginary world, of goodness, was her way of dealing with the horror of surviving the Second World war”.
He said Mirka’s work resonates with today’s Black Lives Matter movement.
The 1996 painting of people staring out, for example, expresses each person’s humanity and diversity, and also Mirka’s belief that we need “to embrace those things if we’re going to stop killing each other”.
Ms Bram said the exhibition will run for at least six months from early December.
Mirka wasn’t shy in expressing herself, and using her own words “will enable a layered more complex reading” of her art, Ms Bram said.
The exhibition will include photos of Mirka in Paris; her Holocaust testimony video; letters from artist friends such as Martin Sharp; and disarming pen sketches of children.
Other paintings include an intimate 1959 study of her husband, Georges, drinking coffee in the cluttered, colourful apartment cum studio at 9 Collins Street where the family lived at the time. Their baby son Tiriel sleeps in a cot.
Asked how Mirka – who died aged 90 in 2018 – would have reacted to COVID-19, William says: “She would have said, ‘it’s not getting me’. She was tough, having survived the war.”
As for self-isolation, “she would have said ‘I’m an artist, I’m always in lockdown, but I have my books, I have a radio.’ She would have risen to the challenge but I’m sure there would have been people bringing food to her.”
The exhibition will be the Jewish Museum of Australia’s first major event since it closed in March.
The museum will gradually re-open on Sundays from July 26.
Ms Bram said the lockdown had been challenging but staff had found new ways of engaging with audiences online.
“We’ve continued to run lots of our programs on Zoom. Our social media channels have never been busier.
“There’s been a huge amount of back and forth with audiences in a different way. ‘‘But we can’t wait to welcome audiences back, ‘in real life’, as my kids would say.”
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.