Seeing Through the Time: A Jewel Suspended in Midst

By Maija-Liisa Marton

The ROUTE Exhibition Catalogue. Brussels, 2012. 

The European Union

Inna Rogatchi ©. Presence. Beatrice Ephrussi the Rotschild’s bench. Cap Ferrat. France. 2010.

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.

May 2012

MAIJA-LIISA MARTON, actress, director, Finland, Dr. of Arts, h.c., Shenandoah University, Virginia, USA