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When Philanthropy Becomes a Way of Life

Posted 23/2/2011

By Jarna Lindroos 
FIGHTING CANCER, LSSY bulletin, 2/2011 


"In my life, I prefer to be straightforward, in my art – no. In my understanding, art should be done in a very subtle way, leaving a viewer with a room for his or her own reflections, feelings and thoughts", – says Inna Rogatchi who currently is working on her fifth book in addition to her other projects. The book's title is The Human Connection, and it portrays the two last decades of the changing the centuries' period through its notable people and memorable events, all seen from a unique perspective.

With losing her little daughter Julia to cancer, the writer and artist Inna Rogatchi has devoted her life to philanthropy. "We have met so much good will from numerous people that it is felt as a blessing. Naturally, we wanted also to give back, and to provide as much comfort and help to those who need it as we possibly could" – she says during our conversation on Inna's preparations for her forthcoming From a Window of Mercy and Joy exhibition of art photography. This special exhibition is made by the artist to enlighten Turku based cancer patients and their families; the exhibition will have a place in Meri-Karina multi-medical and rehabilitation centre.

There has been indeed a need for good will, a lot of strength, and, in particular, the need for caring people who were willing to help in the situation when 11-year old, terminally ill girl was in acute need of an immediate treatment in a totalitarian country. In the kind of country where the basic principle for society's functioning was 'fiction dressed down as a law and law which has been a complete fiction' as Inna Rogatchi has describe it in her book My Finnish Family. The book tells about the last year of her daughter's life.

It was 1988 when born in Ukraine former Soviet citizen Inna Rogatchi had found herself with her family in the middle of a Soviet bureaucratic nightmare. In urgent response, she tried to get her daughter out of then Leningrad and to get medical treatment for her in the Finnish city of Turku which has a status of friend-city with St Petersburg.

Although they managed to get the place in Turku University's hospital for Julia's treatment, there was a special and separate story to get there from Turku's friendly city of Leningrad. The story which itself has been a quite-essential everyday' struggle. On the way of the organising their way out, the Rogatchi's family has faced many those who were seeking achieving their own advantages' by the price of blind and indifferent prolonging the suffering of the child. Among those were, for example, the hospital official who was afraid to issue a letter confirming the need for the little patient the treatment abroad being wary of possible reprimand by his higher bosses in the clinic. There were doctors in Julia's department who were refusing to provide her with vital medicine despite all requests by her alarmed parents. There were nurses who were stealing food from terminally ill children for their own homes. There were stone-faced officials from the children foundation who went in complete denial of providing any help to the mother who needed to collect all her strength for getting extremely expensive oncology treatment for her only child.

The last year of Julia's life happened to be happy, against all odds. She was able to live it amongst caring people.

Art is a therapy

Inna Rogatchi's experience has not made a cynic out of her, quite the contrary, she is the person who is able to find a light in the middle of darkness, the person who can recognise the resources of strength which do exist inside that which is perceived by most of us as an ultimate gloom.

"If one would remember that there is a light inside, possibly deep inside the darkness; that, let's say, the sun still looks especially beautiful when it is setting down, there is clearly a more assured way to find a solid ground under one's feet", she reflects.

After Julia's death in 1989, Inna and her husband, the artist Michael Rogatchi were using that strength of light to commemorate their daughter's memory in Arts Against Cancer initiative which has been spread very widely, including the forthcoming exhibition in Meri-Karina.

For this exhibition, Inna Rogatchi has chosen pictures of nature done in her customary way: beautiful and full of closely arranged wonderful details. As this exhibition has a special purpose, her art photography works there are meant to play a special role as well – a special kind of art therapy for cancer patients and their families who all are involved in a very hard struggle for life, literally.

"This kind of art is a therapy which does not demand a strong effort from viewers for its perception, but which affects people in a quite natural way; it gives good moments to people, it brings on a bit more of hope, and it also increases psychological capacities, I hope" – Inna explains. – " I would like to hope that my art photography from this specifically picked up collection would bring on calmness but also a joy, positive emotions which are so incredibly important for both cancer patients and their families at any given moment".

To continue their philanthropy, the Rogatchi couple of artist's and writer's established in 2004 The Rogatchi Foundation which in addition to cancer patients, is helping also, among other causes, the victims of the Fukushima disaster and orphans in different countries. Helping has become a way of life for both of them.

Inna Rogatchi, however, does not want to ponder on 'the making the world a better place' line. – "The world's 'improvement' is a socialist utopia, and as such, it is cannot be more far from my way of seeing the world' – she says both ironically and determinately. – "What could be said though it is that both of us are trying to create something new and worthy artistically, each in their own field; and also, we are trying to provide as much as possible help for those who are in need of that".

Hate is winnable

Inna Rogatchi is an internationally acclaimed expert on foreign policy and international development, specialising, among other things, on phenomena of anti-Semitism and other forms of extremism. She keeps close touch with leading dissidents world-wide, from Russia to China. She cannot, nor does she want to turn a blind eye on the problems of modern society; importantly, on tendencies which promote the forces of hate, persecution and power-control as the 'main remedies' for society's problems. At the same time, she is confident that a human being can prevail over those destructive forces.

"I am an individualist and believe that a human being can win a system. We saw quite many strong examples of that phenomenon. If there are seeds of hate in a society, then people possess the potential to overcome it" – she says emphatically.

Answering our question regarding what would be her message to those Finns who are thrilled by the idea of racist hate, she said that blossoming hatred and ignorance are the most direct and sure way to crushing society's foundations. She believes that the nucleus of hatred prevention is a family, and on what principles it raises its children up on.

"A feeling and understanding of basic humanistic principles is born within one's family. Independent from political views and leading from right or left affiliation, it is up to one's family to make a child to understand and value the principles of humanity which make people and their societies civilised" – she emphasises.

Inna Rogatchi believes that young people should be getting much more knowledge about the humanists of our times to start to see life in its real dimensions, not in a form of another electronic game. She also sees necessity for modern day's exemplary figures of society to be in far more close personal contacts with youth, to enlighten them on the basic values and their applications in the modern world. "The experience and vision of people like Vaclav HavelElie WieselLeonard Cohen are the best ever teaching a young person can get entering adulthood. In Finland, the knowledge and character of such people like president and Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari, professor Carl Öhman, bishop Erik Vikström, and governor Pirkko Työläjärvi are the best ever examples for the youth to see life in its real value", - says Inna.

"Young people should understand that violence bred by hate is not a proper way of influencing things, ever. For the maintaining a decent life in all its dimensions, a mutual respect is of paramount importance. The society which consciously and steadily opposes hatred and that which is driven by it phenomena, always functions far better than the one which allows destruction to rule" – reminds writer and artist Inna Rogatchi.

From a Window of Mercy and Joy exhibition of art photography by Inna Rogatchi : Meri-Karina Centre, Turku, Finland, December 15, 2011 – January 15, 2012.

Upon the end of the exhibition, the author will donate all the works via LSSY to the cancer patients residing in Meri-Karina, patients in Karina hospice, and those ones who are treated at TYKS hospital.


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