“Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty.
Anyone who keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old.” ~ Franz Kafka
Kafka was raised primarily by governesses and servants while his father worked hard on his thriving business at a haberdashery alongside his mother. He was the eldest of six children―two brothers died in infancy, and he had three sisters Gabriele ("Elli"), Valerie ("Valli"), and Ottilie ("Ottla"). Although he was rather withdrawn even as a child, Kafka dearly loved his little sisters and found time to read and write various plays for them. He would serve as the director and his sisters the actors for his plays acted out on the occasion of his parents’ birthdays. His youngest sister Ottla was his favorite. When they grew into adulthood, she was a close confidant and took care of him at times when he fell ill. As a child, she would get up early to open the shop for her father’s business, but she greatly desired her independence from him. Therefore, she went to live and work on the farm of her brother-in-law in Zürau (now called Siřem), located in Western Bohemia. Kafka sometimes would go to visit her, finding a refuge to write. From September 1917–April 1918, Kafka stayed on the estate with her, already suffering from tuberculosis. Kafka called her “the love to the others notwithstanding, the dearest by far.” All three of his sisters outlived Kafka, but they perished in the Holocaust.
Photo: Kafka at about ten with his sisters Valli (left) and Elli (center)