There were 75 paintings by Polish artist Hanna Weynerowski-Kali and now that they have been safely moved to the Polish museum in Switzerland, the FBI is releasing details about the case.
One of her works is called "The Cobbler." Kali was a Polish resistance fighter during World War II. After the war, she traveled the world, painting, and finally settling down in the Bay Area. Kali's artwork is considered a national treasure in Poland. When she died in San Francisco in 1998, Kali left 86 paintings to The Polish Museum in Rapperswil, Switzerland.
"The artworks never reached their intended destination," said Caria Tomczykowska, Special Envoy to the Polish Consulate.
They had vanished. For 16 years, the whereabouts of the paintings were a mystery. Four years ago, the museum intensified its search for the artwork. Recently, the Polish Ministry of Culture turned to the FBI in San Francisco.
"The Polish Government had asked us to try and reach out for one of the family members here in the Bay Area and see if he was aware of the location of the paintings," said David Johnson, the FBI Special Agent in Charge in San Francisco.
The FBI went to Kali's nephew's home in Santa Rosa.
"He knew where the paintings were. They were maintained in a storage facility and after a conversation with us, it was agreed that we would take them to get them back to Switzerland where they belonged," said Johnson.
The FBI recovered 75 of the 86 paintings. The nephew said he was protecting the paintings and didn't know the museum was looking for them.
The Polish Government says there are still some 80,000 pieces of art that are missing from its country. Most are believed to have been stolen by the Nazis and Russians.
"They are finding more and more paintings in Germany and Holland and other places. These paintings are coming back," said Tomczykowska.
Now 75 more paintings have come back; this time from San Francisco.