Inna Rogatchi’s The Lessons of Survival Film at the Special Screening Event at the Seimas of Lithuania

Inna Rogatchi’s new film The Lessons of Survival. Conversations with Simon Wiesenthal was shown at the Seimas of Lithuania at the special screening and discussion event of the Seimas European Club. The chairman of the Seimas European Club, the first Deputy Speaker of the Seimas Petras Austrevicius was the event’s host and the chair of its panel. Prominent international politician and the Lithuanian MP Emmanuelis Zingeris participated in the panel.

The event was co-organised by the Seimas and its European Club, The Rogatchi Foundation, International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet occupation regimes in Lithuania, and the Vilnius Jewish Public Library.

Among the audience at the event were well-known Holocaust survivors such as professor Irene Veisaite, ambassador of Finland H.E. Harri Mäki-Reinikka, deputy Head of Mission of the German Embassy Mr Peter Ziegler, representatives of the Polish Embassy, members of the Seimas of Lithuania, well-known historians such as Dalia Epstein, famous writer and composers such as Anatolys Senderovas, as well as leading educators.

In his opening speech, the chairman of the Seimas European Club Petras Austrevicius did tell the audience about his long, over 20 years, close friendship with Michael and Inna Rogatchi and his long-standing co-operation with The Rogatchi Foundation, “The creativity of both Inna and Michael Rogatchi and the range of their international artistic, public and charity activities is quite amazing. Inna and Michael, you always are cordially welcome to Lithuania!”- said the first Deputy Speaker of the Seimas of Lithuania opening the special screening event. Mr Petras Austrevicius emphasised that the actuality of Inna Rogatchi’s new film on Simon Wiesenthal ‘is extremely high at this very moment of European development”and that “this is a very precise moment to make our very best of the lessons provided by this very important work of modern documentary”.

In his speech, Dr Emmanuelis Zingeris emphasised the inter-lock of memories and time for both Lithuanian Jewry, and for all Lithuanian people who have no luxury to abandon the history who is still a life for living survivors, their children and grand-children. “My mother who is 95 years old is still remembering everything that was happening in the Kaunas ghetto as it was going on just yesterday. It has been imprinted not just in her own memory and consciousness but also it went even down to sub-consciousness to us, her children and grand-children, and to the psyche of our friends and people whose families were living through that period which is just impossible, and will never be possible to describe in full. We all are incredibly lucky that Inna Rogatchi happened to be a friend with Simon Wiesenthal and has been able in her film to present him to us from such close range and in such intimate detail. It is a precious knowledge, and it is a privilege to be able to see this extremely valuable documentary and to get that incomparable testimony from the figure of the Wiesenthal experience and calibre”, – said Emmanuelis Zingeris.

In her introductory note, Inna Rogatchi told the audience of the film’s background and her goals as the author while she was working on it. “My husband and I were very privileged to know Simon Wiesenthal well, we were good friends, visited him often and have talked a lot during many years. He was an exceptional man whose legacy, to me, was his quite-essential humanism which had been manifested in many different ways and patterns, often not quite expected ones. I always thought that to preserve his legacy alive as it is done in the documentary, is a great and rare opportunity. But I did not expect the world to be in the shape it is now when I was filming our conversations with Mr Wiesenthal almost two decades ago. I was filming it at the moment when the world was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII. And now, the next year we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of that historical landmark. I have to tell you that the atmosphere in society was much different from what we are witnessing daily now. It was simply impossible to imagine that 34% of the population of a European country would believe that ‘Jews are responsible for the current economic difficulties’ as a recent poll showed in Hungary, that parliamentarians would proclaim from the parliament podium that ‘all Jews in the country shall be registered’ as it is happening in Hungary today, or that openly Neo-Nazi parties like the ones in Hungary or Greece would enjoy so much popularity. It seems to me that in realities like that, the film in which Simon Wiesenthal is talking to all of us, is more necessary and timely than ever”, – said Inna Rogatchi.

After the screening of the film which was received by the public exceptionally warmly, the co-organisers of the event took part in the discussion. The First Deputy Speaker of Seimas Petras Austrevicius thanked and congratulated Inna Rogatchi with the achievement of her film, and said that ‘it is quite clear that the film should be seen by the wide public, as wide as possible”, and expressed the hope that it will happen in Lithuania and elsewhere.

In his comments, Ronaldas Rasinskas, the executive director of the International Commission on the Evaluation of the crimes of the Nazi and Soviet occupations regimes in Lithuania emphasised that every time he watches Inna Rogatchi’s film, he sees the new sides of it. He brought out the important quality of the film – “the exceptional closeness of Simon Wiesenthal to all the viewers of Inna’s film. He was such a legendary personality, and it is a very rare possibility to be able to see and hear him without distance. The subjects discussed in the film are of paramount importance for us, and these themes and thoughts are getting to people yet more deeply and profoundly when they come in this way of friendly, natural, trustful sharing that we are witnessing on the screen when Simon Wiesenthal is talking to Inna in the way he is. It is a very rare experience of co-sharing for all of us, and it is an extremely valuable and a very special side of this film which has to be seen by everyone. Our Commission, for one, is going to use the film material for educating teachers from all over Lithuania in more than 100 of our Tolerance Centres, and we believe that it will provide unique material for them and all the children and youth that they are working with”.

Speaking to the audience, Zilvinas Beliauskas, director of the Vilnius Public Jewish Library, said: “The film we have seen now is a very important piece of the contemporary documentary. It not only shows such an unparalleled source of the incredibly important, priceless, historical knowledge in the first-hand way as Simon Wiesenthal is, but it also demonstrates, testifies quite powerfully that time is a very relative category, indeed. We can see in this great film a very discretion of time; we can see – and hear, and feel – the events, processes, people’s thoughts and emotions that have happened several decades back, are coming to us today alive. This is an incredible personal experience for everyone who has watched the film, and I would like to congratulate Inna for this great, very special, and very important work. There is no doubt in my mind that The Lessons of Survival film should be seen by a maximumly wide audience. We will make a special screening event at The Vilnius Jewish Library, and have started to talk with the Lithuanian TV already on the matter. I cannot thank Inna enough for that fundamentally important documentary”.

In the course of the discussion, the Holocaust survivor, professor Irena Veisaite emphasised “the very special role that Simon Wiesenthal has in our history”. She also was speaking about his stand and legacy, and how much depends on a personality. “Simon Wiesenthal knew to the smallest detail what he was standing for, and why. He has paid the highest price for that knowledge and position. With the time going on, it is very important that his legacy should not be misinterpreted. From that point of view, too, this film is both very timely and important”.

The Ambassador of Finland in Lithuania H.E. Harri Mäki-Reinikka said: “This film is timeless”.