Humanist of the Year Award  ceremony for film director Saulius  Berzinis at the Embassy of Finland in Vilnius, Lithuania

On March 26, 2019, the Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania HE Christer Michelsson and Mrs Ebba Michelsson, in co-operation with The Rogatchi Foundation hosted a special celebration and reception on the Humanist of the Year 2018 Award for prominent Lithuanian film director Saulius Berzinis.

From the lief: President of The Rogatchi Foundation Inna Rogatchi, prof. Rainer Mahlamäki, Mrs Ebba Michelsson, Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania HE Christer Michelsson. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

Several leading international figures took part in this meaningful event: Special Guest Speaker, the world-famous Finnish architect, the laureate of The Rogatchi Foundation Humanist of the Year Award 2017 prof. Rainer Mahlamäki; member of The Rogatchi Foundation International Advisory Board,  the one of the leading European politicians MEP Petras Austrevicius; writer, project manager of the forthcoming The Lost Shtetl Museum and Memorial Complex in Seduva Sergey Kanovich ( Brussels).

In his Opening Greetings, the Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania HE Christer Michelsson said:

Ambassador of Finland to Lithuania HE Christer Michelsson

“ When I was contacted by The Rogatchi Foundation with an idea to organise this event, I was enormously glad. It is so absolutely important for us all to remember – not formally, but in a real-time regime, always; and we all at the Embassy are very happy that we can host such event, and to greet all our distinguished guests here. I hope that our event will mark a special tendency which is important, human and enduring”.

The Special Guest Speaker at the ceremony was world-famous Finnish architect, the laureate of The Rogatchi Foundation Humanist of the Year Award 2017 prof. Rainer Mahlamäki. In his speech, he said:

“ I very much appreciate and respect the activities and stand of The Rogatchi Foundation, and do value their work very highly. That’s why I am here today. I can tell you that when a creative person – as an architect, as I am, a film director, as the laureate is, a writer, and the others – is working during the years not only on history, but inside the history, that history gets into him, and it forms him to a substantial degree. It is not always easy to withstand such formation, especially if we are talking on such tragedy as the WII and the Holocaust. But we cannot escape if we would intend to be honest. We just have no luxury of it”.

Outstanding Finnish architect, prof. Rainer Mahlamäki. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

The International Advisory Board of The Rogatchi Foundation at the event had been presented by the one of the leading European politicians, prominent Lithuanian politician, the first Ambassador of independent Lithuania to Finland MEP  Petras Austrevicius who said:

“ It is amazing as the time flies. It is hard to think that now the ten years past as I did return from Finland where I served as the first Ambassador of Lithuania which regained its independence. I am so happy to work back then in Finland and all those years after with The Rogatchi Foundation and their co-founders, great artists Michael and Inna Rogatchi who are also great Litvaks, and I do hope that we in Lithuania will recognise it as it should be done, and will do it very soon. I am very grateful to The Rogatchi Foundation for their decision to award Saulius Berzinis for all his giant work. He is the one of the bravest people in our country, and I am very happy for him, and for Lithuania, for this important recognition”.

Member of The Rogatchi Foundation International Advisory Board, MEP Petras Austrevicius. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

The work of Saulius Berzinis is closely connected with international The Lost Shtetl project of forthcoming Museum and Memorial Complex. The project is authored by prof. Rainer Mahlamäki, and is supported by The Rogatchi Foundation. In his speech, the project manager of The Lost Shtetl, writer Sergey Kanovich ( Brussels) has said:

“ I do love Finland and would like to tell about it as loud , as possible. Looking on us here tonight, I just cannot stop to think and to be amazed: how different we all are here, and how much do we united by the event and its theme, and the people who has organised such incredibly, ultimately important celebration and recognition of memory. I am sure that a lot of time will pass, but we all who are here today, would remember this unbelievable, warm and essential evening. And the significance it bears for each of us”.

Project manager of The Lost Shtetl Museum and Memorial Complex, writer Sergey Kanovich. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

The Holocaust survivor Fanja Branzovski spoke in Yiddish at the event. Her speech was translated by the the well-known senior Lithuanian politician Emmanuelis Zingeris. Fania who knows Saulius Berzinis from the end of 1980s, has told to the audience:

The Holocaust survivor Fanja Branzovska and the Lithuanian MP Emanuelis Zingeris. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

“ I lost all my family of 55 people in the Vilna Ghetto. And I was sure that I will not survive that loss psychologically, that I would not find an inner resources to continue to live. I did not how. And I did not know what for. But them gradually, we all, those who did survive, did return to life, and during all those very long years, I have to tell you that the most important thing was to remember. And then, after Lithuania has become independent again, there appeared that young then man, Saulius. He started to ask questions from us, the survivors; he was listening extremely attentively, he understood. He filmed so many of our testimonies. He did just incredibly important service of humanity not only to all of us who did lost everything and everyone, but to the humanity itself, to the society, to our future generations. Go on, dear Saulius, do continue what you do! We love you”.

Emanuelis Zingeris in his own speech has emphasised the attitude that the state of Finland does have and demonstrate towards the eight Jewish people, military prisoners during the  WWII who had been deported from Finland to the concentration camps in Latvia:

“As you all know, I am travelling non-stop, and I have been in Finland numerous times. I never forget the time when I visited the memorial that the Finnish state did erect to the eight Jewish prisoners of war who had been deported by Finland to the concentration camp in Latvia during the WWII. That memorial is in the central of the capital of Finland. And I am thinking with this regard to our capital Vilnius, the capital of the country where over 200 000 its Jewish citizens were murdered in a cold blood and in no time, over 95% of its entire Jewish population. I always make this comparison: the memorial to those eight – and the destiny of our more than 200 000. Thank you, Finland, for those eight”.

Michael Rogatchi, the co-founder and chairman of the Foundation, has said prior to the handing the Special Diploma for Outstanding Contribution Into the Collective Memory on Holocaust  to Saulius Berzinis, have said:

Chairman of The Rogatchi Foundation artist Michael Rogatchi (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

“We all have seen an incredible natural phenomenon today – when in the end of March, all of the sudden, such might snowfall have started as if from nowhere. The last night, we all were shocked to hear on the passing of our dear friend, great Lithuanian composer Anatolius Senderovas. There is a belief in Judaism that when a very pure soul ascends, we are seeing incredible natural phenomena here on earth, just like we saw it today. When the soul has reached its High Up destination, the phenomenon stops, as it has happened now. We are very glad to congratulate such very special director as Saulius Berzinis is with our Award and Special Diploma recognition. Saulius is the one of the rare people, both professionally and humanly. He is truly the one of the very best professionals in Lithuania and beyond it”.

The demonstration of the short art film presenting the Inna Rogatchi’s Song of Our Souls art work had preceded the Inna Rogatchi’s speech.

Inna Rogatchi (C) Song of Our Souls II. original art work. 2018.

In it, the co-founder and President of The Foundation have said:

President of The Rogatchi Foundation Inna Rogatchi. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

“ I would like to speak about my colleagues in spirit, about people who has devoted a serious part of their career to the theme of the Shoah. Those are not quite ordinary people. Those are the people who did put onto themselves the mission which is rather difficult to maintain. It is very demanding psychologically, and in many other aspects. If you are doing it professionally and for substantial time, it never leaves you. It always there, inside you. And you are living in a different world, or in two worlds. We always are there, on the call when the matter is Shoah. To do it for thirty years, and in the way in which Saulius Berzinis does it – it is an exploit. Chapeau, dear Saulius!”

In his acceptance speech, laureate of the Humanist of the Year 2018 Award film director Saulius Berzinis has said:

Director Saulius Berzinis with his Special art Award for the Humanist of the Year 2018. ( C) The Rogatchi Foundation

“ In 1989, I bumped into those people about whom Fanja Branzowska was speaking , the survivors. When they started to talk, both on the camera and in person, my life has changed entirely. Previously, they did not have a chance to speak much. Nobody was interested in what they were telling, and certainly not in details of their massive narrative. I was. They became to trust me, they were telling the things which they kept inside themselves for life. I would never forget them, my Jewish grandparents, as I regard them all. My teachers, for sure, but also, importantly, my grandparents. I dedicate this Award which is incredibly important for me and for which I do thank The Rogatchi Foundation humbly and tremendously, to my Jewish teachers, friends and grandparents, to the survivors.”

In the conclusion, the Ambassador of Finland in Lithuania HE Christer Michelsson has emphasised:

“It is amazing to see how during that several hours, we all have learned so much. And the more we learn, the more I understand how little we still know on that incredible tragedy, especially with regard to the personal details and stories that all are of vital importance. Thank you to The Rogatchi Foundation, to the director Berzinis, to all of you who had come here tonight to share with us this really unusual and so moving and memorable event”.

Inna Rogatchi with pianist Maria Mirovska who performed emotional recital at the Special Event. (C) The Rogatchi Foundation.

The Rogatchi Foundation cordially thanks our wonderful partners, the Embassy of Finland in Lithuania for this great and meaningful co-operation.  

Related articles:

Director Saulius Berzinis Awarded with The Rogatchi Foundation Humanist of the Year 2018  Award

Special Ceremony for the Humanist of the Year Award At The Embassy of Finland in Lithuania

Warm Snowfall: A Special Night in Vilna