The most famous person with roots in the northeast corner of Slovakia is Andy Warhol, the late pop artist and avant-garde filmmaker whose parents came from the village of Mikova.
The most famous Jews in the area are Franz Kafka, Golda Meir, Albert Einstein.
They are among the 10 Jews in an exhibition of Warhol silkscreen prints, fittingly named “Portraits of Ten Jews,” at the Warhol Family Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, a few miles from Mikova in the Subcarpathian foothills.
The 17-year-old museum, which is preparing for its largest-ever exhibition next week, houses the largest collection of Warhol works outside of Pittsburgh, the artist’s birthplace. The museum has given an economic boost to Medzilaborce, which suffered heavy unemployment after the collapse of communist-era industries in the early 1990s.Today the museum attracts 17,000 visitors a year, most of them foreigners.
Warhol — the family’s original name was Varchola — never set foot in Mikova, and when asked where he came from, would answer, “I am from nowhere.” He died in 1987.
He created the portraits, first shown at New York’s Jewish Museum, of what he called “Jewish geniuses” in 1980, “because I liked the faces.” Other figures in the collection, which has made the rounds of museums around the world, include Louis Brandeis, Gertrude Stein, Sarah Bernhardt, Martin Buber, George Gershwin, Sigmund Freud and the Marx Brothers.
Warhol’s family was Catholic.