(Ivan & Anitta Moscovich with Educational Insights' Robot Face Race)
Ivan Moscovich is known by many descriptors—a survivor, an inventor, an artist, and an inspiration, to name a few. When I talk to many who know Ivan, however, a friend is how they describe him most fondly, with a smile.
Ivan has led a remarkable life. While only a teenager, he was taken from his home in Yugoslavia and imprisoned in five concentration camps—including Auschwitz—where he faced unbelievable physical hardships and unimaginable emotional strife, which, despite Ivan’s will to persevere, have tormented him throughout the years that followed his liberation.
He acknowledges in his published memoir, The Puzzleman, that creativity gave him the drive to escape and survive exceptional challenges. Creativity is also what has propelled Ivan’s genius into the lives of so many—touching each of those lives in unique and profound ways, while at the same time providing educational stimulus for connoisseurs of his cleverly designed puzzles, toys, games, and fine art.
One might credit Ivan’s initial development of original hands-on scientific teaching aids, after emigrating to Israel post-WWII, as his first foray into the life of an inventor. Paul Erdős, the famous Hungarian mathematician, inspired Ivan’s first true toy invention, however. The Amazing Magic Robot was launched by Merit Games in the UK in the 1950s after Erdős challenged Ivan to consider how to make a kid’s game from a concept called “Magnetic Oracle,” which was originally introduced centuries earlier in 1638. The Magic Robot used an ingenious magnetic design to create a fun question & answer game for children. After a successful run with Merit Games, this “magical” game subsequently re-launched worldwide under different titles for many years to come.
Since then, Ivan has made an extraordinary career out of inventing puzzles, toys, and games. Just as awe-inspiring, Ivan has been attending the Nuremberg Toy Show yearly (without interruption) since it opened in 1950! Next year will officially be his 70th year attending this iconic show and meeting with toy manufacturers from around the world.
Despite the unthinkable experiences Ivan had to endure early in life, luck has touched Ivan frequently. “Everything is a result of serendipity,” Ivan once told me. From his life-saving encounters during the Holocaust to meeting the love of his life, Anitta, on a bus in 1950 to his “discovery” by Mattel founders Elliot and Ruth Handler in 1968 at the Tel Aviv Science Museum, Ivan’s embrace of fortuitous quirks of fate has shaped the direction of his life. And that chance meeting with the Handlers (where they saw some of Ivan’s now-famous original Harmonograph drawings and mind-challenging puzzles) landed him a whirlwind trip to Los Angeles, a $25,000 cash advance, and a popular puzzle line called Brain Drain that was introduced in the early 1970s by Mattel.
Since hitting the big time in the toy industry, this self-titled workaholic has released a brilliant repertoire of inventive products and has worked with well over 100 international toy, game, and publishing companies. In total, Ivan has licensed 111 puzzles, toys, and games, and he has written 69 books—many of them bestsellers. What’s most enjoyable to see is how kids and adults equally are enlightened and engaged by Ivan’s perplexing and luminous inventions and puzzle challenges.
Creativity is a thread that continues to flow through Ivan’s story. Three years ago, his original fine art, which he makes using his custom-made Harmonograph machine, was exhibited for the first time in decades at The Hospital Club in London. Every piece sold on opening night!
(Ivan's art displayed in Lisa Guili's office)
The pieces of this Puzzleman’s life, even the dark ones, are what make Ivan’s impact through toys and games so intricate, layered, genuine, and fun. It’s clear that the most important pieces of Ivan’s life are his family. His wife, Anitta, is always by his side. And they both speak with loving pride about their daughter, Hila, and granddaughter, Emilia.
(Ivan's daughter, Hila, and granddaughter, Emilia)
Ivan Moscovich, the Puzzleman, turns 93 this year, and as Anitta says, “His story is a good story of a life well spent.” Anyone who has had the pleasure of knowing Ivan would agree.
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