Painter Chana Kowalska (née Anna Kowalska) was born into a Jewish family in Włocławek, Poland in 1899. Her father, Leib Kowalski, a rabbi, senator and Zionist, made their home a meeting point for intellectuals, among them the Yiddish writer Sholem Asch, who is said to have written his first book there. Kowalska began drawing at the age of 16 but did not initially pursue a full-time artistic career, and instead became a schoolteacher at the age of 18. In 1922 she moved to Berlin to study painting and met her future husband, the writer Baruch Winogora. They later moved to Paris and settled in Montparnasse, where she borrowed the studios of her friends in which to paint, and where she created two nostalgic works based on her home town of Włocławek: Shtetl (1934) and The Bridge (1937, both Ben Uri Collection). As Anna Kowalska, she participated in the First Exposition des Artistes Révolutionnaires, held in a pavilion at the Parc des Expositions in the Porte de Versailles in 1934. She was actively involved in the Paris Kultura-Liga and in Jewish communist circles, and also worked as a journalist, in addition to writing on painting for Yiddish journals including Presse Nouvelle and Le Journal de Paris. She was the Secretary of the Jewish Painters and Sculptors Association and participated in the 1937 Jewish Cultural Congress.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, she became involved in the French Resistance with her husband. After being arrested by the Gestapo for her involvement in communist activities, Kowalska (as Anna Winogora) was first interned in France at the Caserne des Tourelles camp, then deported on 19 July 1942 to Auschwitz-Birkenau where she was murdered on 27 September 1942. In the UK her work is held in the Ben Uri Collection.