The Repair Shop guest bursts into tears after seeing restored family heirloom

A guest onThe Repair Shop was moved to tears during last night’s episode (22 March), after a painting that her family had hidden from the Nazis was restored.

In one of the most moving moments in the show’s six-year history, painting conservator Lucia Scalisi was presented with a 19th century artwork of the Madonna and Child, which guest Maria Kirk explained had an extraordinary story behind it.

Kirk told Scalisi that the painting had belonged to her grandfather, a Ukrainian Catholic priest, who had been given the piece by his father when he was ordained.

It had been on display in his church in the village of Skowiatyn, Western Ukraine, until the outbreak of the Second World War, when Kirk’s mother, aunt and grandmother fled.

“They were escaping from the Russians on one side and the Germans on the other,” Kirk said, explaining that the painting was one of the few items they brought with them, rolled up and stitched into a winter coat.

The three women were captured by the Nazis and sent to a labour camp, where Kirk’s grandmother died of starvation.

Her mother relocated to the UK after the war, and her aunt stayed in Germany and kept the painting, before giving it to Kirk years later.

She said it’s the only thing she has left of her family’s, telling the programme: “I haven’t got any other tangible proof they even existed.”

Kirk said she plans to return the painting to the church in Ukraine at some stage.

“With everything that is happening there, I think it would be special to see that out of all the darkness and horror, something beautiful and peaceful and gentle could come out of this,” she said.

Kirk, Lucia Scalisi and presenter Jay Blades with the painting (BBC)
Kirk, Lucia Scalisi and presenter Jay Blades with the painting (BBC)

Kirk said of her mother: “She always said she felt like this painting kept them together in the camp. I just want to see it as they would have seen it.”

When the restored painting was revealed, Kirk burst into tears, saying, “Oh my goodness. Oh, it’s beautiful. Thank you. The colours, it’s alive.”

Viewers found the scenes very touching. “Oh good lord #repairshop gets me every time,” tweeted one fan.

Another wrote: “I have watched so many episodes of #TheRepairShop down the years and I have never been close to crying. This painting from Ukraine for all modern reasons along with the deep family history associated with it has me in bits. The woman told the story quite beautifully.”

A third posted: “#TheRepairShop has been my favourite show for years, so the team’s talent shouldn’t come as any surprise. But, wow, Lucia’s restoration of that Ukrainian painting was something else. Simply stunning.”

The Repair Shop is streaming on BBC iPlayer.