On June 20th, the opening of Inna Rogatchi’s The Route. Family Edition exhibition took place at the Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine Museum in Dnepropetrovsk. The Museum which is part of Tkuma (Revival) Historical Institute is the largest of its kind in Eastern and Central Europe.

At the opening ceremony. Michael Rogatchi (centre) discusses the exhibition with Yan Sidelkovsky, coordinator of international projects of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community; on the far right is Channy Schmerling, well-known Swiss philanthropist.  © The Rogatchi Foundation.

The ceremony of the opening of The Route.Family Edition ceremony attracted a lot of public interest and has become a big international event.

Rabbi Gurevitch from France, the leader of national Jewish educational programmes, and Rabbi Shuli Naftali, the leader of  The Kotel Foundation, Jerusalem look at Inna Rogatchi’s works at her exhibition.
Rabbi Yossi Kaminezki from the Ministry for Religious Affairs of Israel examines Inna Rogatchi’s work depicting the bench of Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild in Cap Ferrat, France; on the right, director of the Jewish elderly house Malvina Ruvinsky and her grand-daughter are next to the work depicting the street of the Jewish Quarter in Rome.

The opening ceremony attracted many distinguished international guests, and has become a memorable event of shared memories and an ongoing legacy.

Meeting of good friends and colleagues: Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk Shmuel Kaminetzki (centre) and director of Tsivos Hashem International, executive director of the New York Jewish Children’s Museum Rabbi Yerachmiel Benjaminson (left) at Inna Rogatchi’s exhibition opening. Michael Rogatchi is in the centre.

The ceremony was opened by the head of the science department of the Museum Dr Anna Medvedovskaya who introduced the author to the public and told about the concept of the exhibition and its previous successful history at the European Parliament and at Yad Vashem. There were two key-speakers at the ceremony – Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk Schmuel Kamitezki and Rabbi Moishe Kotljarski, the leader of the Chabbad Luvabitch movement world-wide.

Rabbi Schmuel Kaminetzki  opens aInna Rogatchi’s exhibition. June 2013.  © The Rogatchi Foundation.

Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk Shmuel Kaminezki in his speech praised Inna’s and Michael’s efforts for bringing a cultural dimension into the busy life of the Jewish community of Dnepropetrovsk, the second largest city and a very significant scientific and industrial centre of Ukraine: 

“For many years, we have regarded our community, the second largest in Ukraine, and quite significant in all of Eastern Europe, as Inna’s and Michael’s community, too. With joy and gladness, we also regard both of them as full members of our community. Those two people, two artists, big international cultural figures, have brought to our community a dimension which we all have been lacking here. This community and this city are very busy with business, banking, construction, all kinds of business and financial activities, but culture we do lack. And if not for Inna and Michael, I do not know how we would manage here in our big city and big community, in that vital respect. It was them, who tirelessly, one year after another, share their culture with us; not only their great talent, but also, quiet importantly, their great knowledge, their understanding, and their attitude. This is not to speak of their exemplary generosity. It is thanks to them, a world famous artist and his multi-talented wife, that we are living a full life here having that vital and so rare and unique dimension of culture of the very best world quality brought to us by Inna and Michael. You two are our inspiration” – addressed Rabbi Kaminetzki to Inna and Michael Rogatchi and to the public.

The public was engaged during the vivid and interesting speech and blessing by the Chabbad Lubavitch leader Rabbi Moishe Kotljarski (on the right).

In his vivid and engaging speech, the leader of the Chabad Lubavitch movement Rabbi Moishe Kotlyarsky emphasized the role of a living, acting, energetic memory.

 “During all my life, I was coming to the understanding that remembering the past in still motion will not be bearing any fruit. That static remembrance will not pave a way for the continuation of life, ideas, actions and deeds. In such a situation, both soul and spirit will not be having the oxygen needed for a natural, strong and viable existence. Only a living, active memory is the nourishment which is a precondition for the real continuation of life, in its different ways and forms, both physical and spiritual.”

“What I have been seeing here in this exhibition of Inna’s work, and what I know the Rogatchis are doing in their artistic, educational and philanthropic activities world-wide, is exactly what I am talking about – the active, living memory. They are doing it repeatedly, completely consciously, having it as both their individual and joint concept, in their own creative work, and also in their educational and philanthropic activities for a quarter of a century now. They do it tirelessly and purposefully; with brilliant artistic confidence and full moral conviction – which is a special and rare merit in present day life. We will be going nowhere if people like the Rogatchis would not create and share with us these alive, speaking ‘brick-stones’ of our common memory. We and our children and grandchildren won’t be able to build any optimistic and viable future without acknowledgement of both distant and recent past which we all have been coming from. The Rogatchis’ activities and their results are not only great in quality and noble in intention; they are a real contribution to all our futures, a very significant, indispensable contribution. And for that I am blessing the Rogatchis and everything that they are doing and planning to do in the future” – said the leader of the world Chabad Lubavitch movement Rabbi Moishe Kotljarski.

Distinguished guests listen to Inna Rogatchi’s speech at her exhibition’s opening in Dnepropetrovsk.

In her speech, Inna Rogatchi underlined the concept of her ongoing project, The Route, and explained in more detail the project’s Family Edition which she has donated to the Museum in Dnepropetrovsk in memory of her father Isaac Buyanover. 

The author told the public of the special character of the idea of The Route project:

“On the very long and dramatic journey of the Jewish people, from early Medieval age till today, a mostly forced journey, the historic way of Jewish people has been shaped into an interesting dualistic phenomenon: the journey has been a forced one, the conditions of life in most of the countries where Jewish people were coming to being forced from a previous place, had been far from cheerful. But due to the strength of their character, and also due to their talent and determination, Jewish people enriched the life of the societies of any and every country they had been forced to come to, to the extent that corresponding societies and the rest of the world too, quite naturally for themselves started to perceive the Jewish contributions into their life and history as their own national heritage. It is just impossible to imagine France without Chagall, or Czech Republic without Kafka, and it is the case for every country worldwide where Jewish people were forced to come on their long dramatic way of survival. But what a rich and enriching survival it was – and is, to a significant extent. This collection of works examines this way, The Route of my people, in its historic respect and in its geographical dimension. This project has several editions which reflect the geography of The Route – the Brussels one, the Family Edition, the Krakow Edition focusing on Central Europe, and the American Edition including all the previous ones with its continuation on American soil.”

“It is my honour to present this exhibition in the city of my and my husband’s families, and the works making up the Family Edition of The Route tell of both personal and general history: two works on Dnepropetrovsk present in this collection show the past and future of the city where Jewish life had been huge, with 96 synagogues existing here before the Bolshevik revolution, where this life had been eradicated by the communist regime, and where, after its fall, this life has been restored to an unimaginable level, entirely thanks to the heroic effort of Rabbi Schmuel Kaminetzki who in my understanding is a real blessing to this city, the native place of Rebbe Schneerson and his family. It was one of the Rebbe’s superb visions, to appoint Rabbi Kaminetzki to lead and restore Jewish life in the Schneerson family place, 22 years ago. Today, we all are witnessing a remarkable revival of Jewish life here, and my second work on Dnepropetrovsk, the one that shows the first prayer just minutes before the opening of the world’s largest Menorah Jewish Community Centre here, symbolising that miraculous revival.”

“As for Kazakhstan and its inclusion into the Family Edition collection, my husband’s family and he himself as a small child, had been exiled there by the Soviet regime, sharing the destiny of millions of the victims of that sadistic totalitarian system. We all know that the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Scheerson who used to be the Chief Rabbi of Dnepropetrovsk for more than 30 years, had also been arrested by the NKVD in 1939, and sent into exile to Kazakhstan where he died in 1944. So, the life-threads of our families, of the great Schneerson family, and of a very substantial part of the Jewish people had been weaved together, – and I have tried to reflect that in my work, The Route project and its Family Edition presented here.”

“Also important and interesting is that my own family was closely connected with the Schneerson family in Dnepropetrovsk: my step-great-grandmother, Dinah Paley was sister of Sergey Paley who had been a leader of the Dnepropetrovsk Jewish community in the beginning of the XX century and who had been instrumental in electing the Rebbe’s father, Levi Yitzchak Scheerson as Chief Rabbi of the city. Sergey Paley had been Chief Rabbi Schneerson’s closest associate ever since. Also important is my great-grand-father Meer Chigrinsky who had been very popular in Dnepropetrovsk through the 1920s and 1930s due to his legendary honesty and diligence, who had helped Chief Rabbi Schneerson feed the Jewish community at the most critical time of the infamous famine in the mid-1930s. Meer Chigrinsky had been the head of Prodtorg, the office of the city administration responsible for the distribution of food. At that time of famine, he himself twice had been close to death from hunger, and our family barely survived as my great-grandfather absolutely refused to take any extra to feed himself or his family. When Chief Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Schneerson approached the city authorities with a request to provide him with the right to distribute flour among the Jewish community members – which was the way he had elaborated in order to save his people from death – it was my great-grandfather, Meer Chigrinsky, who helped the Chief Rabbi feed and sustain the community that saved them from death during that terrible famine. With all these historical ties engrained in my work, I am especially pleased to invite the public of Dnepropetrovsk and those who are visiting here, to enjoy this exhibition” – Inna Rogatchi told the audience.

The public at the opening of Inna Rogatchi’s The Route. Family Edition exhibition at the Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine Museum. Dnepropetrovsk, June 2013. 

According to the museum, “the exhibition is having great success and has evoked very high public interest, with people coming en masse to see it, and massive high end media coverage of it.” The exhibition will be on display at the museum until the end of August 2013.