Coming Home

Written by Idelette McVicker

A day before her art exhibition was to open at Gallery M in Prague, Natasha Sutta received a package from her brother in the United States. Inside was a photograph: a little girl, about eight years old, smiling and standing with her father.

Memories came flooding back.

The picture was taken in 1969 – a year after Communist tanks rolled into Prague – and shortly before Natasha left Czechoslovakia with her Russian mother and two brothers. They’d found a way to escape to England. Her father, who was Czech, stayed behind. They fled just in time.

“Soon after, the borders closed and a wall went up,” she remembers, “I lost my father, as well as my country.” Natasha had trouble adjusting to life in England. Her classmates expected her to be just like them. But a deep-seated sadness seemed to separate her from her peers. “I was misunderstood and lonely,” she says. In 1987, after completing her degree in Russian literature, Natasha left England for Asia.

“I wanted to get away from everything and look for the meaning of life.” she says. “I wanted to see if things were different on the other side of the world.” Long fascinated by Chinese art and culture, Natasha soon became frustrated. There just wasn’t enough time for her art. Sensing this creative tension, her Mandarin teacher encouraged her to quit language school and enroll in the university’s fine arts degree program. Even up to the day she graduated, Natasha doubted her dream would ever come true.

But it did.

Natasha attended lectures, wrote exam papers and communicated with her fellow students – all in Mandarin. It was one of the toughest – but also one of the sweetest – times in her life. She practiced diligently and to the amazement of her teachers, Natasha learned the dance of the Chinese brush. It took a while before her fellow students trusted her. Even more challenging was adapting to a new way of thinking. She discovered that Chinese thought patterns were very different from her Western ways.

And yet, this sense of the exotic was what initially attracted her to Asian art. “It’s so simple, yet it’s able to express so much,” she explains. “I wanted to explore the mentality of the people who produced this great art.” She discovered that unlike Western painting which tries to reflect what the artist sees, Chinese and Japanese paintings are a meditation on the deeper things of life.

When Natasha finally gained entrance into the inner sanctum of Chinese culture and art, she was filled with awe. “I felt like a secret door had been opened to me and I saw treasures rarely glimpsed by Westerners.” Still, Natasha mourned the separation from her father, her childhood and her Czech roots. When the Communist wall finally crumbled in 1990, she booked a ticket to Prague to see her father.

Her father was seriously ill and she sensed it was the last time she would see him, but it wasn’t quite the happy reunion she hoped for. Years of separation had chilled the relationship between father and daughter. “It was horrible o go back,” she says, sadly. “My father had really changed and said he didn’t want to know me anymore.”

It was a cold welcome all round. Prague was no longer the happy place she remembered. “Everything was so alien. I met many relatives, but I had no memory of them,” she says. “I kept banging against a wall.” Disillusioned Natasha returned to Taipei. A year later her dad died.

Grieving her loss, Natasha painted a little girl standing in front of a giant wall. With a big red bow and a small backpack, the girl seemed innocent and helpless against the overwhelming circumstances which faced her. As people admired her work, they recognized the walls around their own hearts. They saw walls that separated them from their loved ones, their dreams and their longings. For Natasha, the wall became the symbol of separation from her culture, her people, her language, and ultimately, her identity.

She yearned to reconnect with her roots. But Natasha knew many emotional walls had to be broken down before her people could fully enter into their new freedom. Perhaps, she thought, her art could help rebuild her native land and heal the wounds left by decades of alienation.

She painted “The Wall is Broken,” a colorful painting showing a little girl – pigtails bobbing – skipping along a path leading to a castle on a hill. Behind the girl, the wall is crumbled. Natasha had broken through.

Soon after, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of her leaving Prague, Natasha and her mother returned to the Czech Republic for good. Again she seemed out of place. After 12 years in Taiwan, she felt a part of her had become Chinese. And unlike the people who had stayed behind, Natasha embraced a world that was much bigger. She realized that the hearts of the Czech people were still walled off against the rest of the world.

The wall in her paintings now represented misunderstanding between cultures as well. It made Natasha even more determined to build bridges through her art. But breaking down walls is a process. “There are economical and political walls, but there are emotional and psychological ones, too.” she says. “It is a mindset of not trusting people – of closing yourself in and not believing anything.”

Her latest paintings reflect this somber mindset. Her Prague works are strictly black and white. “People here can relate to this austere mood,” she says. But in time, Natasha hopes they might all step out into full color again. “The love of beauty is so ingrained in the people here,” she says. “Everybody keeps saying my art is a gentle stroke on the heart that gives them hope. Hope, truth, light and beauty-it’s what people have lost here.”

While the new generation of Czechs are staking their hope in the stock market, Natasha wants to rekindle their belief in something that goes beyond economic power. “I’d like to wake people up to another hope,” she says. Although it will take time, Natasha is committed to her people. She found the place where she belongs. “In Taiwan, I was loved and appreciated, but here I have roots.” she says. “I’m finally home.”

Take a look at your life.  How would you describe it? Contented? Rushed? Exciting? Stressful? Moving forward? Holding back? For many of us it’s all of the above at times.  There are things we dream of doing one day, there are things we wish we could forget.  In the Bible, it says that Jesus came to make all things new.  What would your life look like if you could start over with a clean slate?

Living with hope

If you are looking for peace, there is a way to balance your life. No one can be perfect, or have a perfect life. But every one of us has the opportunity to experience perfect grace through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You can receive Christ right now by faith through prayer. Praying is simply talking to God. God knows your heart and is not so concerned with your words as He is with the attitude of your heart. Here’s a suggested prayer:

Lord Jesus, I want to know you personally. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life to you and ask you to come in as my Savior and Lord. Take control of my life. Thank you for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Make me the kind of person you want me to be.

Does this prayer express the desire of your heart? You can pray it right now, and Jesus Christ will come into your life, just as He promised.  Is this the life for you?

If you invited Christ into your life, thank God often that He is in your life, that He will never leave you and that you have eternal life. As you learn more about your relationship with God, and how much He loves you, you’ll experience life to the fullest.

2 Responses to “Coming Home”

  • Serena Chen says:

    Natasha and I used to be very close friends. Some how we lost contact after I moved to the USA. Now I’m back to Taiwan again. I’ve been dying to find her. Please help me! Thanks!

  • Peggy Chiang says:

    I am one of natasha’s friends while she lived in taiwan. I’ve been looking for her for many years. If any of you can contact with her, would you please ask her to contact with me?

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