Review by the Israel National News – January 23, 2017
The article reviewing the Inna Rogatchi’s SHINING SOULS. CHAMPIONS OF HUMANITY art and educational project and its European Premiere and Inaugural Opening at the European Parliament in commemoration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2017.
BEAUTY OF MEMORY : Inna Rogatchi’s SHINING SOULS series
Inna Rogatchi is internationally renowned as a scholar, writer and lecturer, focussing her research on history and international political relations with a particular emphasis on anti-Semitism in its many forms. In addition to this outstanding career, she is equally acclaimed as a film director and photographic artist.
In her beautiful installation “Shining Souls. Champions of Humanity. Brussels Edition 2017” she presents a selection of 30 works from her Champions of Humanity collection. In it, she combines her historic research with her art, dedicating this beautiful series of art photographs to some of the most extraordinary persons of the 20th and 21st century, many of whom she knew personally or held a lifelong friendship with.
Inna Rogatchi pays homage to men and women who lived through the darkest horror that humans unleashed against other human beings, and yet were able to give us works of art of immeasurable beauty and depth – Paul Celan, Elie Wiesel, Felix Nussbaum, Chaim Soutine and the Rose family – to name but a few of those commemorated in this remarkable exhibition. Inna Rogatchi also honours men and women who rose above fear and at great risk to themselves helped others to survive, Chiune Sugihara, Carl Lutz, Tadeusz Pankiewicz, Irena Sendler. Some, like Raoul Wallenberg and Janusz Korczak, paid the ultimate price for their courage. And the collection pays tribute to those who, after the Shoah, worked for justice, humanism and reconciliation, like Simon Wiesenthal, Thomas Buergenthal or Odd Nansen.
The artist uses deceptively simple motives, captured in her homes in Finland and Italy or on her numerous trips – a tree, a leaf, a flower, the sky, the moon, a shadow, a candle… By pairing those simple motives with the extraordinary persons commemorated, Inna Rogatchi conveys their individual spirit and personality in a unique way. Take as an example “Simon’s Rose”: Inna Rogatchi visited her friend Simon Wiesenthal in Vienna for many years and recorded some of her conversations with him. This resulted in her remarkable documentary film “The Lessons of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal” describing his survival from the Holocaust and consequent lifelong quest for bringing the perpetrators to justice. During all the years of Inna’s meetings with him, Simon Wiesenthal always had a golden rose on his office desk. Hence her tribute to him, a rose, bathed in golden light, contrasted to an anonymous wall in the background. As we are reading from Inna’s mini-essay to the work, the wall is the of the war-period walls of Warsaw where Simon’s wife Cyla was hiding during the Holocaust. Simon and Cyla were just two persons to survive from the family of 89.
Like this emblematic work, the entire series provides the viewer with an opportunity to remember and reflect while enjoying the remarkable beauty of Inna Rogatchi’s art. Poignancy embedded in beauty is characteristic of all her work, always dedicated to the principle of “Never Forget”. On behalf of all viewers, I can only thank her for sharing it with us.
Dr Elisabeth Kehrer Austrian Ambassador to Finland
Inna Rogatchi(C). Simon’s Rose. Homage to Simon Wiesenthal. Shining Souls series.
ADDRESSING AT THE INAUGURAL OPENING OF THE INNA ROGATCHI’S EXHIBITION IN MEMORY OF ELIE WIESEL AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN JANUARY 2017
COMPASSION OF REMEMBRANCE.
By MICHAEL DE SAINT-CHEROIN (C)
ADDRESSING TO THE INAUGURATING OPENING OF THE INNA ROGATCHI’s SHINING SOULS. CHAMPIONS OF HUMANITY EXHIBITION IN MEMORY OF ELIE WIESEL – The EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, January 24, 2017, Brussels.
Dear Inna Rogatchi, Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It is to a particular joy for me today to associate the name of Inna Rogatchi, extremely talented photographer, a dear friend, and a great personality, with the name of Elie Wiesel, Blessed is Be His Soul. Today, in this addressing, I join this commemoration of the Holocaust, or Shoah, or Khurban ( Sacrifice) as Elie Wiesel used to say; commemoration of all Holocaust survivors among the Yiddishkeit, those who are possessing Jewishness and celebrating the Jewish way of life. Tonight, my words would represent me in this commemoration in Brussels.
Inna Rogatchi gave her exhibition expressive title: Shining Souls. Champions of Humanity. In this exhibition, she portrays her allusive art works of fire, flames and trees. These works reveals the light of course, but they also speak of heat, of burn, of the things being consumed by fire; of ashes, – because fire and flames generate ashes. Seeing Inna’s works, I am thinking on flaring ashes of those millions of human beings who were assassinated in gas chambers.
That action, as the Nazis loved to say, of processing alive people into the ashes had started from a handicapped people, yet before the extermination has been focused on the Jews. That extermination process also included the Soviet soldiers and the members of the Resistance. It included also those who were qualified as being “unsuitable” for the forced labour, and those who has become ‘a waste’ after the medical experiments on them; it included the Gypsies.
With her great heart and all her talent, Inna portrays various projections of the power of that fire, the power of those flames, but she also portrays the power of the trees, symbols of life. Can a man be compared to a tree? Can a man being see as a tree? – the question appears from the Torah, from the book of Deuteronomy. “A person is like the tree of a field”– is written in Deuteronomy ( 20:19). The comparison is based on the fact that for normal life tree needs four elements: soil, water, air and sun which is associated with fire in Talmud. The same elements are also essential for a human survival.
Inna Rogatchi (C). Insomnia. Homage to Primo Levi. Shining Souls series.
In the end of the 1970s, in one of his works Elie Wiesel did ask precisely the same question concerning the concept of fire in the Jewish history and vision: may something that had been expired by and was extinguished in fire come back? What fire does transcend, or what fire declares by itself? What is the fire’s statement, so to say? What actually happens when fire encircles, in the phenomena which is happening with horrifying regularity throughout the Jewish history?
In passionate and enlightening art photography work by Inna Rogatchi, whiteness of the flame tears up the blackness which encircles it and locks it up. We can see there the signs of fire in its movement.
But we do know that burning fire also symbolizes love, faith, and mysticism. And it cannot escape our attention that, in philosophical terms, one can recognise that flame has also some of a private quality next to it, its antithesis, something like water – as we see in the Inna’ photography, too.
Two flames added each to other, or two candles brought together forms nothing else, but one candle and one flame.
In a similar motion, two human beings brought together by the force of love forms nothing else, but one being. At very least, each of those human beings from a loving couple is dreaming on nothing else but to be the entity of one.
The same, two rivers coming together are forming one river; two water drops overflowing into each other – again, forming the one drop…
The totality of the flames defines and makes an immense inextinguishable fire which destroys everything and everyone on its way. Similarly, the totality of the mystic love determines a mighty super-love which ignites the feeling and embraces with it everything and everyone on its way.
In her works, Inna Rogatchi makes us to hear the echo of Holocaust in a tangible way. She does it in her signs of fire, flames, and trees. We also salute her intention to remember the army of the Righteous Among the Nations, all those people who rose up against the barbarism, against the madness of the German people and their henchmen at the time of Nazism.
We remember those heroes who were saving the persecuted Jews. The Jews who were persecuted in every country, in every city, in every district, in every house. Every single Jew, would he be old one or just new-born baby.
Thank you Inna, and thank you all those people who has made possible this exhibition in Brussels and The European Parliament, and did it in the enlightening memory of Elie Wiesel.
MICHAEL DE SAINT-CHERON
Philosopher of religions, writer, the author of seven book on Elie Wiesel, his friend, colleague and fellow for 34 years.
Inna Rogatchi (C). Wisdom of the Heart. Shining Souls series.
Whenever we are reading a book, an article, or we are watching a film, we are having a pre-existing feeling telling us that we need to choose a place for its collocation. It is a concrete, material act. The book has its own physicality that requires its space. The article is to be cut out and filed in a certain category, that nowadays more and more often becomes a digital folder, on our desktop. A film has less physicality. Of course, it may be recorded in a form of a DVD, a file or an USB key. Or maybe, it exist as a link simply. But, apart of the material aspect, it is a cultural collocation that matters, overall.
The big and important archives are also organised in the similar way, would it be the Washington National Archives or the Central Archives of the State of Italy. When a student or a scholar enters a hall of a researching institution, he finds there already existing selection of titles, documents and books, selected and offered by the archivists. And there is a certain knowledge among the researchers on the titles and works in the given collections which are particularly useful; it is clearly right to keep them always ready at the display. Once you have watched the Inna Rogatchi’s film “The Lessons of Survival. Conversation with Simon Wiesenthal”, you need to decide for yourself where to collocate it.
This is a film and this is a document at the same time. Because of this double-quality, this work should be defined as ‘a primary source’, following the old journalist jargon. The film’s language is both simple and essential. In it, Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary person, is speaking to us. We can also see the places mentioned in the Wiesenthal’s narrative. The emotions there are expressed with the help of the paintings by Michael Rogatchi. Yes, the Inna’s husband. Yes, Inna was Simon Wiesenthal’s collaborator: a privilege, as she tells us in the beginning of the film. In the very beginning of the film, Simon Wiesenthal immediately made his approach and the concept crystal clear: “I survived, but my thoughts are going for those who did not ( survive)”. How deeply right it he. The thing is that the real witnesses of the Shoah are the drowned ones, those who did not make it. During all the years of the Simon Wiesenthal’s life and activities, the theme of forgiveness had been crawling under the surface, as if a flow of an underground river. Sometimes it was re-emerging, sometime disappearing.
Apart of the circumstance that no Nazi executioner has ever asked for forgiveness, the fact remains that forgiveness is never given through intermediaries. Forgiveness may be only received from the victims. Nobody can ever take their place.
There is also much new material in the Inna Rogatchi’s film, from new details on the search of Adolf Eichmann to other facts telling on search and capture the officer who has arrested Anne Frank. For this reason, The Lessons of Survival is also a primary source. But then, on the top of everything, there is the voice and the eyes of Simon Wiesenthal. While minutes are passing by, we start noticing that his story develops with peace and serenity, as if he willing to calm those who are listening. He is talking about mass murderers and death camps, but he does it by transmitting towards us such a steady tranquillity which only can be produced by justice. When it is applied.
Filmmaker Inna Rogatchi talks to The Jerusalem Post about her documentary based on never-before-released intimate and friendly conversations with the legendary Nazi-hunter.
Many of us have bee fortunate enough to benefit from the wisdom of a dedicated schoolteacher, a mentor or just an observation made in passing which helped to change our perspective on life. Inna Rogatchi says she learned a lot from Simon Wiesenthal. Some of the gems she gleaned from the celebrated late Nazi hunter who, like Rogatchi, hailed from the Ukraine but later took up residence in a different country – he lived in Vienna and Rogatchi now resides in Finland – eventually found their way into Rogatchi’s moving documentary about the Nazi hunter’s work and life, The Lessons of Survival.
The film, which bears the self-explanatory subtitle “Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal,” was completed in 2013 and has been screened at various venues around the world. It has finally made it over here and will be shown at the Tel Aviv and Haifa cinematheques today and tomorrow respectively, to mark the 10th anniversary of Wiesenthal’s passing.
Rogatchi’s Wiesenthal connection began with a visit to a well-known bookstore in London.
“Books are important to me,” says the filmmaker, who also has several volumes to her name and is an art photographer and educator. “In the early 1990s I went to the biography department of Foyles and saw Alan Levy’s book [Nazi Hunter: The Wiesenthal File]. It’s an excellent book. It’s not too sugary and it’s objective.”
Rogatchi was so taken with the Levy tome she thought it would be a good idea to share its contents with her fellow Russian-speakers.
“I knew they [Russians] didn’t know anything about it, because when I proposed the idea of translating The Wiesenthal File into Russian, they said ‘Wiesenthal who?’” The venture eventually led the filmmaker to the door of Wiesenthal’s offices, at his Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, which he established in 1961, near the former Viennese Gestapo headquarters on Morzinplatz.
“I wanted to meet Alan to ask for authorization to translate the book into Russian. I went to the [international writers’] PEN Congress in Prague in 1993, where I met Alan, and later I went to Vienna to meet Simon.”
That kick-started a 12-year relationship between Rogatchi and Wiesenthal, which began as a respectful professional confluence that quickly turned into a close friendship, and which ultimately spawned The Lessons of Survival. It also led to Rogatchi doing her bit to try to track down Nazi war criminals.
“We tried to get information in Baltic countries, and to help trace people for Simon,” she says.
So, the filmmaker became part of the Wiesenthal organization? “It would be going too far to say I worked with Simon on this,” Rogatchi points out. “I just got a little of information here and there, asked some questions and made contact with some authorities. You could say I addressed the issues, sometimes in Finland, sometimes in the Ukraine.”
In interviews, Wiesenthal always came across as a genial character, and very different from the image of a hardnosed character driven to hunt down Nazis come what may.
“I found Simon to be bigger than a Nazi hunter,” says Rogatchi. “I found his approach very humanistic.”
That suited her down to the ground.
“I was also looking for more humanism in life,” she adds. “I found Wiesenthal’s approach to life, based on his Holocaust experiences, to be more humanistic.”
Like famed Jewish Viennese psychotherapist Viktor Frankl, who spent three years in concentration camps, Wiesenthal also came out of World War II determined to maintain a healthy approach to life and humanity in general.
Rogatchi notes, however, that Wiesenthal’s gentle exterior hid a razor-sharp mind.
“He was soft in appearance and he was very meticulous. He was blessed with an exceptional memory. He trained as an architect and I think the engineering part of him was important.”
Wiesenthal’s offices were a maze of folders and files stacked on shelving and in drawers all over the place.
Wiesenthal was clearly not into the latest information technology, and Rogatchi says he didn’t really need a computer.
“He had an excellent memory. I have so many hours of tapes with him and he never repeated himself. Sometimes he had as many as eight interviews in a day.”
That necessitates not only a well-developed facility for storing data, but also stamina.
“He was on a mission,” says Rogatchi simply.
Rogatchi says she got far more from Wiesenthal than just information about his life and his lifework.
“Every time I sat with him I learned something which was important for me. That’s not about history and facts, although I got a lot of that too, but it was more about his attitude. For instance, I would ask him why he didn’t look for some Nazi or other, and he would calm me down. At first I thought that maybe he was aging and slowing down. But then I thought he was right. He had a sort of wisdom that you get from age and experience, and also judgment.”
The documentarist says that she never caught Wiesenthal allowing emotion to cloud his better instincts and clarity of mind.
“He was not vengeful, which is probably a gift from God – you are either vengeful or you’re not. You could be like [late Polish-born Israeli Nazi hunter] Tuviah Friedman, who was not vengeful but he was bitter. Over the years I have thought about Simon a lot. He lost 89 members of his family [in the Holocaust]. How do you live after that? How are you not driven by pain and revenge? I don’t know the answer to that.”
But Wiesenthal was driven, by a life mission.
“His wife Cyla once said to him, ‘you trained as an architect and you are going on, for ages, with this [hunting Nazi war criminals].’ And he told her that she was right, but that he would feel like a traitor if he didn’t hunt down Nazis.”
Unexplained personality traits notwithstanding, the audiences at the Tel Aviv and Haifa cinematheques, later this week, should gain a far deeper insight into one of the most fascinating characters of the 20th century. The Lessons of Survival: Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal will be screened at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque tonight at 7 p.m. and the Haifa Cinematheque on October 8 at 5 p.m.
By Pamela Clements (C), Sydney, Australia, May 2015
Lessons of Survival: Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal
Created and Directed by Inna Rogatchi
I saw Inna Rogatchi’s film Lessons of Survival: Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal at the Jewish International Film Festival in Sydney in March. It stays with me still – the beauty of this extraordinary film, the shock of the beauty.
Simon Wiesenthal set up his office in the former Nazi headquarters in Vienna. There! The fear evoked by that idea almost takes one’s breath away, the courage of the idea makes one want to cheer, to exult in Jewish survival. All that force, cruelty, calculation, war machinery, suffering, and now Simon Wiesenthal can base his search for justice against the perpetrators right at their core.
Inna positioned her camera over the stair in the former Nazi headquarters, looking down. Architectural, symmetrical, painterly and breathtakingly beautiful in colour, light and form, this frame creates a beautiful and terrifying vortex, down which one felt one’s self inexorably drawn and hurtled into oblivion.
Simon Wiesenthal’s face, as he was interviewed by Inna, and the brief shot of young Inna deeply listening to Wiesenthal – these were beautiful, painterly, profound moments in the film. The film’s photography, composition, lighting, colour, pacing is beautiful, even in the camps. I felt almost “blasted” as I experienced the beauty of this film.
And so at the Q & A after the film, I asked Inna: “Can you speak to us about the beauty of your film?” How could a film about such horrors be inspired, created and manifested in beauty? Inna’s answer: “That is the point.”
Don’t miss this film. Allow yourself to experience the film’s beauty as well as its historical significance, and to feel the presence of Simon Wiesenthal and honour his remarkable courage and achievement. Open yourself to “The Point”.
Rating: 5/5 (or whatever the top rating is).Pamela Clement is internationally recognised architectural acoustic consultant, specialising in musicology
A number of years ago, filmmaker Dr. Inna Rogatchi had the opportunity to interview and film Simon Wiesenthal, reflecting on his experiences of bringing Nazis to justice after the Holocaust. His own survival after being housed in a Concentration Camp was in itself extremely fortunate, but this documentary reveals a number of previously unknown facts relating to Eichmann, the arrest of Anne Frank, the Raoul Wallenberg case, and other events. Inna has allowed the camera to focus on Simon during this 55 minute documentary, with her voice heard off screen as she asks some probing questions. To illustrate some of the issues raised, the film features cutaways of Mauthausen Concentration Camp (one rarely seen in documentaries, as Auschwitz is the one used most often by filmmakers), as well as Linz, Austria, Hitler’s home town. Inna has carefully interpolated these contemporary scenes with Wiesenthal’s conversations, in a smoothly orchestrated manner, with the use of appropriate music to further heighten the stark revelations. The film’s power lies in the conversations and the way they are organized to enhance their power. The camera focuses on Wiesenthal who unflinchingly reveals so much about the horrors of the Genocide perpetrated by the Nazis during World War 2. Indeed, the message is clearly evoked: one must never forget, and as he often states, it is important to bring to justice the individuals who carried out this mass slaughter. Inna’s film is a welcome and valued addition to the Shoah, and serves as an important record for generations to come. Highly Recommended.
Peter Krausz is film critic, film journalist, consultant to various film festivals, radio broadcaster and former Chair of the Australian Film Critics Association.
Since Inna Rogatchi’s documentary film, Lessons of Survival: Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal finished production in 2013, it has been shown around the world and it has been listed into the Yad Vashen’s online film database. It is a memorable and inspirational work that highlights ones man fight for survival, and for justice against unspeakable evil.
This short, 57 minute documentary, is comprised primarily of excerpts of conversations that Rogatchi had with Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005). These conversations took place over a period of time and they detail Wiesenthal’s experiences during the Holocaust and the events that occurred after his liberation from the Mauthausen concentration camp. They also explore the events that led to Wiesenthal becoming one of the best-known Nazi hunters. In addition, these ‘conversations’ help to explain Wiesenthal’s philosophy on life and the ways in which he felt that the Holocaust was still impacting the world.
In addition to Wiesenthal oral testimony, this documentary also includes snippets of previously unreleased historical footage, and it is illustrated by art work produced by both Rogatchi and her husband, Michael. Rogatchi is a writer and philanthropist, and she was a personal friend of Wiesenthal.
This documentary serves as an excellent introduction to the life and work of Wiesenthal, and it is an important addition to the body of works that provide first person testimonies about the Holocaust. In these conversations, Wiesenthal explains why it was essential for Jews to take a leading role in hunting down Nazi war criminals, both in terms of Jewish self-esteem and in terms of capturing these criminals. Had it not been for Wiesenthal and his compatriots, many of these killers would have escaped justice. This is because after a few big show trials, the allies lost interest in tracking down former Nazis. Worse, in many cases, they where complicit in helping Nazis hide because they had skills that the allies wanted to exploit.
This documentary is well suited for watching by individuals of all ages and backgrounds. The entire documentary is in English. However, there are no subtitles for the hearing impaired. The film is ideal for use in classroom settings (both religious and public) at the high school and college level, and it will be of interest to anyone seeking to learn more about the history of the Holocaust – and the work that went into hunting down and bringing to justice Nazi war criminals.
If a person is talented, he or she is talented in everything. Inna Rogatchi’s name is known not just to an intellectual elite. Renowned author from Finland and the president of The Rogatchi Foundation has donated the collection of her fine art photography to our Holocaust Museum recently. The previous edition of the collection had been very successfully exhibited at the European Parliament last year. Now the wide public of Dnepropetrovsk and the visitors would be able to see this very valuable collection of works embraced by The Route title.
As stated in the exhibition catalogue, The Route series is based on the author’s artistic and historic research. In this research, Inna has reflected her personal visioning and understanding of the historical way of the Jewish people from early Medieval age to the present day. The works cover 15 countries and have been taken during the previous decade.
The exhibition had been opened by the Chief Rabbi Schmuel Kaminetzki. With his customary fine humor, he had noticed that there is everything fine in our city with things religious and business-like, but the same cannot be said of cultural matters. That’s why the Rabbi has emphasised Inna and Michael Rogatchis’ contribution into developing the cultural aspect in our community life, and in the city in general, and thanked them both very much for their ongoing effort to bring more culture and to put more weight also in our education here. It would be appropriate to mention in this regard The Rogatchi Foundation’s meaningful stipends to our best pupils that they have been awarded with this year, as well.
One of the most well-known and highly respected leaders of the world movemevent of Chabbad Lubavitcher, Rabbi Moishe Kotljarsky addressed the audience with a highly charged, emotional speech. He did emphasise that the Jewish Memory and Holocaust Museum is having rather special place in his heart as it was him who was sanctifying Mezuza here at the Menorah Centre opening ceremony in October 2012. The leader of Chabbad Lubavicher movement also recalled a particular episode of himself visiting the Madame Tussauds museum in London and going ‘still’ among the various exhibits; he has returned to reality only by multiplied blicks of Japanese tourists’ cameras. Years later, today, he is feeling himself as an amazed youth again when he is looking at Inna Rogatchi’s works presented at the exhibition.
And indeed, there are plenty of reasons to stay still in front of Inna’s works. We are stunned to see the original bell from the Columbus’sSanta-Maria ship. On board there were very many members of the Spanish Jewish community; the people whom Columbus was saving literally, and who were sailing with him to the shores of freedom. We also as if taken into the small streets and mountain landscapes of the small but meaningful Italian town of Pitigliano known also as ‘little Italian Jerusalem’. We are enlightened by the Garden of Joy created by the fine and thoughtful Beatrice Efrussi de Rothschild at her villa in France. We are amazed by the unusual view of Amsterdam known among its Jewish population also as Mokum, ‘town’ in Yiddish. We are engaged by the author’s personal travel through Jewish places ofPoland, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Kazakhstan. And among them all, we are happy to recognise the very spirit of the Jewish places of our city in outstanding Red Balcony work depicting the old quarters of Dnepropetrovsk. There is plenty to see at this great exhibition, by many accounts.
But there is more. As a literary person myself, I was quite taken by the author’s highlights to her works which Inna did for every exhibit of her collection. I was reading them as thrilling high-class literature, and was only breathing in disbelief every time coming towards the end of each of those commentaries : “That’s it? The ending?.. What a pity!..”
Inna has dedicated the exhibition to her father Isaac Bujanover, who was an engineer and keen photographer. In her speech, Inna has noted that her connection with Dnepropetrovsk is inseparable. Whereve she goes during her quite intensive travelling all around the world, in her thoughts she often is here, in the place where she spent her childhood and youth.
For me personally, the meeting with Inna Rogatchi had been quite significant, too. Her mother, Anna Bujanover, the Teacher with a big T, had been invited in the 1980s of the last century – how time flies, indeed! – to the Dnepropetrovsk university with a series of lectures on her innovative and creative methods of teaching; and I was among the lucky students there. We were elite students at the philology faculty there, and were quite spoiled by top professors who taught us all those years. We were arrogant and superior, – we thought. But I still remember quite vividly like all of us were sitting at Anna Bujanover’s lectures as ever-green first-grade students, jaw-dropped, absorbing those brilliant lectures from A to Z. What lectures Anna Bujanover presented to us, what a gift it was!.. The quarter of a century has passed from the time of those unforgettable lectures of Inna’s mother, and there are so many materials had appeared since then for the teacher who refuses to be indifferent – but all that time, I am using Anna Bujanover’s methods in my work, as many and many of my colleagues still do.
Luckily, there were many children at the opening of Inna Rogatchi’s exhibition. And still, it would be right, appropriate and much needed to open our new school year by bringing children to this exhibition massively. I do believe that all our pupils have to see and to estimate those quite extraordinary works. I do believe that children are the best ‘lithmus-paper’ test for any kind of art – would it be art photography, paintings, movie or theater. Children are not necessarily able to express their impression by words, but their faces tell a lot. And at this exhibition, the works’ glass has reflected the thinking, surprised, and – rapturous faces of my pupils. Bingo, Inna!
Inna Rogatchi’s The Legacy Of Light: The Schneerson Family Collection
RESTORING IMAGES OF JEWISH LIFE IN UKRAINE
For Inna Rogatchi the camera is an extension of her eye and heart. With them her memory captures quiet but deep passion. Inna’s The Schneerson Family Collection is a keystone to understanding Jewish life in Ukraine. Inna Rogachi’s honest and beautiful pictures restore a history that demands to be seen, told and remembered.
Memory can be stimulated by sight, sound or smell. We speak of a memory bell ringing and it brings a past moment back to our mind’s eye. The sweet scent of jasmine might remind us of a far off place and first love. For Inna Rogatchi the camera is an extension of her eye and heart. With them her memory captures a quiet but deep passion that evokes the Holocaust by remembering not only the violence and barbarism, but the peace and joy of normal life that it destroyed. Inna and her husband Michael have devoted their careers to restoring the memories of Jewish life before Hitler and Stalin and preserving them for future generations. They were among the active and most notable supporters of the world’s largest multifunctional Jewish Community Center Menorah and Museum, which opened in Dnepropetrovsk in October, 2012.
Inna’s pictures return us to a time in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union, when Dnepropetrovsk was a thriving industrial center invaded by Nazi troops. On August 25, 1941, 11,000 people, including close family members of Inna and Michael, were slaughtered. Inna’s pictures honor their lives and are an integral part of the legacy that remains.
Her photographs, with skillful and sensitive color enhancement, reveal the simple but pure essences of nature and life in the remains of the neighborhood in the old town of Ekaterinoslav, later re-named as Dnepropetrovsk, where the Schneerson family lived and has been rooted for many decades.
Inna’s The Schneerson Family Collection is a keystone to understanding Jewish life in Ukraine. It was along the banks of the Dnieper River in Ekaterinoslav, today renamed Dnepropetrovsk, where Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson lived for the more than thirty years, serving as the chief rabbi. He was renowned for his Talmudic scholarship, interpretations of Kabbalah and Jewish law. He played an influential role in religious and community life in the flourishing city, while educating his son, Menachem Mendel. Jews were a vital part of Dnepropetrovsk’s life, constituting more than one-third of its population and owning an estimated 25 percent of its factories.
Menachem Mendel Schneerson studied Torah under his father and other learned wise men. By the time he was 17 he was considered an Illui or genius, marked for leadership in the Hassidic religious order. The routine of daily morning and evening prayers, study and commentary on the Talmud and Kabbalah dominated daily life. The Torah and its laws provided the community’s moral center.
Menachem Mendel married the daughter of the Sixth Rebbe Yosef Schneerson who in 1940 fled through Europe to America and settled in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, New York. So did Menachem Mendel who was studying in Berlin until 1939 and fled with his wife to Paris and to Brooklyn Heights in 1940 on one of the last boats to escape the German U-boat blockade.
Menachem Mendel became the Seventh Rebbe, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in 1951, a year after his father-in-law died. The Seventh Rebbe, who spent his youth in Dnepropetrovsk, retained his connection to Ukraine until he died in 1994. Inna Rogachi researched the places of his youth, and the other places connected with the Schneerson family in Dnepropetrovsk, and they are the core of her photographs.
Today the Hassidic Chabbad-Lubavich has a network of 3,600 institutions, including schools, synagogues and kindergartens in over 70 countries and 1,000 cities throughout the world.
Inna’s photographs show the soil in which its roots were planted and the first fruits harvested. Studying her pictures, with their squares and rectangles of deep colors, one can conjure the inspiration for Mark Rothko, the Latvian Jewish painter, a leader of the Washington Color School. Where such art comes from is in the shapes of the buildings and memories of youth.
Memory can play many cruel tricks but Inna Rogachi’s honest and beautiful pictures restore a history that demands to be seen, told and remembered.
Leona and Jerrold Schecter , Washington DC, USA.
Leona and Jerrold Schecter are prolific historians and writers, co-authors of several internationally acclaimed books on modern history, including Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed America History.
“Inna Rogatchi’s Amarcord Forever exhibition is one of the most interesting amongst many events to the 69th Venice Film Festival that will be filling the agendas of movie aficionados who will swarm the lagoon.
The fact that the two events are scheduled simultaneously underlines the Festival’s aptitude to emphasize the true spirit of Italian cinema and to jealously protect its tradition. Amarcord Forever is an unmissable opportunity to live the Festival, appreciating its spirit, which has always been its distinctive trait, to the fullest.”
It is a rare gift to be given the chance to partake in something as personal and subtle as Inna Rogatchi’s photographs in her exhibition From Europe to Jerusalem: The Route. Through the photographs the viewer is generously allowed to have a glimpse of a private journal depicting and describing a long quest for the past and the present.
It is with awe and trepidation we join her to travel over the punishing landmarks of her people’s history. We walk through the narrow passageway in Toledo. We blink our eyes in daylight of the Venice Jewish Ghetto. We pause to listen to the distant tune of a waltz in Vienna. The calmness and lucidity, with which Inna Rogatchi takes us for a walk on the cobblestone street in the Vilnius Jewish Quarter leaves the viewer with a strange sense of understanding and foreboding. It is an invitation to reflect upon the irrationality of the world.
Then, all of the sudden, there is a gentle breeze in the air and, like a jewel, suspended in mist, there is the Florence Great Synagogue. Or, like in the photograph of Chagall’s View, the bliss that one feels of seeing the skies open wide and far.
For me there are two photographs, which captivate the imagination. Time and again I return to the young girl perusing her book at candlelight in Kazimierz Hours, the title work of the current exhibition. There is a tiny rocking horse, and through the window pane the old, uncompromising stone wall is pressing in. The other is the bench in the Beatrice Ephrussi Rothschild garden. The shadows have their tale to tell, but there is a starry, playful spot of light on the seat and another, smaller one on the back whispering of something that is constant, something that remains.
It is, however, Jerusalem, from where Inna Rogatchi’s journey begins on an age-old alley passing the gateway, in A Passage through Eternity. And it is Jerusalem, where her journey ends in front of the white, sun-lit walls and under the powerful arch of the historical and recently restored synagogue, Hurva.
Inna Rogatchi’s fine perception and sense of human frailty make her visual world interesting and deeply moving. It makes me reflect on the words of Paul Johnson in his modern classic A History of the Jews: ‘No people has ever insisted more firmly than the Jews that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.’ There could not be a better confirmation of the statement than Inna Rogatchi’s personal journey shared by us in her photographs.
MAIJA-LIISA MARTON, actress, director, Finland, Dr. of Arts, h.c., Shenandoah University, Virginia, USA