Celebrating Art and Occupational Therapy: A Profile of Alumna Anitta Boyko Fox

Anitta Boyko and her mother, Helen, at Commencement (1945)

Back in the day – graduation 1945 — Anitta Boyko Fox (BS ’45, MS ’47) was among the first wave of students to earn a degree at NYU’s newly established occupational therapy program.  Outside a war was winding down and Anitta found her calling working with returning veterans and helping a team of medical professionals create what is now known as the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine.

In rehabilitation medicine, Anitta found a meaningful career working hands-on with patients and contributing to the literature of the profession.  Her observations and insights are included in Ordinary Miracles: True Stories About Overcoming Obstacles and Surviving Catastrophes, a book edited by the late Deborah Labovitz, a professor and chair of Steinhardt’s Department of Occupational Therapy.

Fred Boyko, a self-portrait

Fred Boyko's portrait of Anitta

Anitta, who turned 90 this fall, emigrated from Vienna in 1939 to escape Nazi persecution.  (As an 11-year old, she lived through the terrifying night of Kristallnacht in her family’s Vienna apartment.)  The family – sponsored by Charles Komar, a distant cousin — found a first home in New York City across from the George Washington Bridge, where Anitta’s father, Fred Boyko, an architect and artist, bartered portraits of the landlord’s children for a few months rents.

This month, a retrospective of Boyko’s art, “From Kristallnacht to Carnegie Hall: The Art & Life of Fred Boyko,” is on view at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany, New Jersey.  The exhibit includes paintings that were shipped out of Vienna after Kristallnacht, as well as commissioned portraits Boyko created in his Carnegie Hall artist’s studio.

The Boyko family is also the subject of a documentary, ‘Unconquerable Souls,” created by the Holocaust Council of Greater Metro West.

Anitta Boyko Fox at Alumni Day

Throughout the years, NYU has been a place where Anitta has felt a deep sense of community and belonging.  She met her late husband, Sheldon Fox, MD, at NYU Bellevue, where he served as a medical resident and later as an assistant clinical visiting professor of radiology.  Their daughters, Serena J. Fox (MED ’79) and and Judith C. Fox (IFA, ’84),  are also NYU graduates.

Anita is grateful to NYU for “taking a chance” on her, for giving her a scholarship that enabled her to do work that has made a difference in people’s lives.

“As someone who had arrived in a new place filled with uncertainty — displaced from her country — NYU was home to me,” Anitta said. “It still is.”