The Route of Inna Rogatchi

by Irina Lazareva

Shabat Shalom magazine  Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine

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’s Santa-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 ofPolandCzech RepublicAustriaGermany 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!

Irina Lazareva

Shabat Shalom magazine, issue 7, June 2013