Maxo Vanka emigrated to the United Sates from Zagreb in Croatia in the mid 1930s. He was well known as a professional artist throughout all of Europe. In 1937, Father Albert Zagar commissioned him to begin a series of murlas at St. Nicholas Church. In eights weeks during the spring of 1937, Vanka completed eleven paintings.
By 1941, Vanka had become a US citizen and a resident of Bucks County in Pennsylvania. He returned to Millvale in the summer of 1941 to complete his second cycle of murals, a series dominated by his anguish over the war in Europe and the brutal factionalism brought by it to the Yugoslav states.