When the Chagalls landed in America, they discovered that Spanish customs had impounded their crates. A distressed Chagall wrote to Ida, still stranded in southern France. She began a heroic effort to salvage her father’s work from being lost to the war, traveling to Spain by herself to try to release the crates.
Michel, following a few days later, was arrested at the Spanish border, compounding Ida’s efforts to liberate Chagall’s paintings from customs with the need to spring her husband from jail. She ingeniously succeeded at both. “Ida played the bureaucratic harp with skill and persistence, pulling all the proper strings,” writes Chagall biographer Sidney Alexander.