“We would like to help to Ukrainian people to hold on”

Inna Rogatchi’s Interview to The JerUSAlem Connection, USA, in connection with the second joint art charitable campaign between The Rogatchi Foundation and TJC for the Ukrainian relief – Autumn 2022

From Dr. Shelley R Neese, the President of The JerUSAlem Connection in the TJC appeal to their members, Washington D.C., October 2022: 

“We are closely following the events in Ukraine. We admire the brave fighters of Ukraine who have refused to cower in the face of the Russian dictator’s ever-increasing aggression.

For the duration of the war, we have focused our giving efforts on the elderly Jewish community who remain in Dnipro, Ukraine. Last May, thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to support a delivery of medical supplies to a home for the elderly in Dnipro. We did so through the coordination of the Rogatchi Foundation and their partnerships with various organisations in Finland and Ukraine.

The Jerusalem Connection has been close with the founders of The Rogatchi Foundation for  decades. Michael and Inna Rogatchi were the first people in Europe to champion the Holocaust artwork of Pat Mercer Hutchens.

As their family roots go back for generations in southern Ukraine, they were instrumental in bringing The Auschwitz Album Revisited to The Museum of Jewish Memory in Dnipro.

I had the privilege of visiting Ukraine on the first day of the exhibit’s opening in January 2014. Pat Hutchens had originally intended to be there but her cancer had progressed and she was no longer able to travel at the time.

With the approach of winter and an increase in Russia’s targeted attacks on Ukraine’s power grids, the people of Ukraine are facing a new wave of hardship alongside their military successes. The JerUSAlem Connection Report reached out to Inna to answer some specific questions about the situation in Dnipro, particularly for the Jewish community. We want to share with you the results of our discussion.

TJC: How is the situation in Dnipro, Ukraine? What is the latest update?

IR: As you know, there have been missile strikes against many cities all over Ukraine, including Dnipro, in retaliation for the explosion of the Crimea Bridge. We are getting calls all the time from our friends in Dnipro. Last week, the Russian planes fired a missile at the bus station in Dnipro, killing four people, including two children, injuring dozens and destroying sixty homes. The attack was just 500 metres from our childhood home. Our close friend’s mother-in-law has an apartment near the bus station. The windows in her apartment were completely blown out by the missile blast. We are concerned for her as winter approaches but she keeps assuring us “I am holding on.”

TJC: What are the most pressing needs that you are hearing from the people of Dnipro right now?

IR: Ukrainian television is warning the people of periodic and permanent blackouts due to the disabled power stations, meaning they will be without water, heating, electricity or even sewage systems. They are asking the people to ration their use of power now and to prepare accordingly for a winter with limited or no electricity. As we see it, the most pressing need now is making sure people have extra energy supplies, such as independent generators and gas or wood stoves.

The highest need population in Ukraine are the internal refugees, those that had to flee heavily bombed places like Kharkov and Zaporizzhie to cities like Dnipro to look for work. They often arrive with nothing but their papers. They are in acute need of financial support for the initial period of their forced migration. In addition to rent and food, one thing we are hearing about is the need to pay for kindergarten fees. In Dnipro, there were public and private kindergartens, but with the war the public ones closed and only the private ones remained open. Continuing the children’s education and having them in a safe place while the parents work is critical but also costly.

Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetski.

TJC: How is the situation in the home for the elderly in Dnipro?

IR: The home for the elderly has forty residents who are staying there permanently. The community has been very attentive to their needs. In addition to the permanent residents, the home is accommodating about fifty new patients who are among the ill and fragile of Ukraine’s internal refugees. The goal for those patients is to treat them and get them well again, but it is a revolving door for new cases. Dnipro and the Jewish community deeply care for the needy among them, but the demand has risen so substantially that they need assistance in supplying food and medical care.

TJC: What are things looking like for the Jewish communities in that area of Ukraine?

IR: Dnipro has the largest and most established Jewish community. They provide and care for the religious needs of four other nearby Jewish communities: Pavlodar, Novomoskovsk , Zeltyje Vody, and Nikopol, a town under almost constant attack. The Dnipro community normally subsidises those four communities who do not have their own rabbis. In Zheltyje Vody, the community has opened a hospice for up to 25 people. The hospice chief doctor is in a dire need of funds for both medicine and food for his patients, about $500 a month.

TJC: When I was in Dnipro, Ukraine in 2014, I had the opportunity to visit with Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetski. Can you give an update on him and his family?

IR: Rabbi Kaminetski is a superhero, an inspirational figure. He stayed because he knows that the whole community depends on him and his spirit. In the community, there are many elderly people, and the presence of Rabbi Shmuel Kaminetski is vital for them, literally. On Rosh HaShanah this year, they had about seventy percent of the people that they would normally have in attendance. The Kaminetski family is doing everything they can for the community they are called to serve.

TJC: Is there any specific message you would like to share with our supporters?

IR: Michael and I, as artists, want to thank every donor of your Ukraine relief fund. We have selected a piece from Michael’s collection called the Tree of Light. We will send every donor a museum quality print (30×20 cm) of Tree of Light signed by the artist in recognition of their generosity. Our friends in Ukraine are continually telling us “we are holding on,” but we want to offer a hand and we are thankful to do so with all of you.

Michael Rogatchi (C). The Tree of Israel. 2017.

From TJC appeal to their members, October 2022:

“Thank you so much to all of you and your faithful giving throughout these years. We try as a small organisation to use everything God has given us and every friendship he has provided us to love, support, and serve the Jewish people. We challenge you to help the people of Ukraine in whatever way you can. Please specify if you would like your donation to go to the hospice in Zeltyje Vody, stoves and generators for families, or to the elderly home in Dnipro caring for internal refugees”.

Washington D.C. USA

October 2022