By Inna Rogatchi,
As so many of us, we are starting a day now by immediately checking the news from a front-lines. Those front-lines are not only so unbelievably many places of bombardment, missile firing, fires, assaults, destroyment in Ukraine. There are also lines of civilians with so many children on the way out the military zone. Those giant lines of cars, many of the abandoned, with people walking for 30 km with children towards the border. Thirsty, hungry, with no possibility to recharge the batteries of their phones, the main and only means of their connection to the world, in an utter need of many practical things to handle. I will remember forever a photograph which I saw, one of so many. There is a platform at the railway station in Ukraine, absolutely full with men. Men only, with their hands in the air waving toward the train in which their children and wives are living. Every day of this war brings to me a new image, case, phrase, situation re-defining the term ‘heart-breaking’. Maybe, because I study the Holocaust for over thirty years, the details and signs of human catastrophe caused by the war, speaks to me in a very graphic way. And surrealism as we know it is not enough anymore to define the struggle of a reason versus reality. It-is-in-com-pre-hen-sib-le. This mean, mean, mean war has introduced to us a new genre, a genre of the day – hyper-surrealism. The time of Goya’s Los Caprichos, real-time.
Day 4: February 27th, 2022
Part 2 – SOMETHING ABOUT CONTRASTS: HUMANS VS GHOSTS
Inna Rogatchi ©. Contrasts. 2022.
As we all are watching with anxiety and emotion unfolding tragedy in Ukraine, we cannot help to think about the drastic difference between human qualities of the sides of this mad and mean war instigated in the centre of Europe. From one side, the aggressor, who played an emperor to the worst of amateur theatre, and who virtually disappeared hiding in a bunker after failure of the mission as he was imagining , copy-cating the previous criminal leaders of the same country. On the other side, an inexperienced politician who turned out to be a man, brave, collected, visible, active, acting, human, president Vladimir Zelensky who has become a sample to the world in no time, and, indisputably, the best possible candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize 2022, too. Next to him is Kiev’s mayor Vitaly Klichko who simply is not afraid and is great both in leading people and communicating with them – and the other side can see it as well, as the rest of us. Well, they do not have anyone as the mayor of the Ukrainian capital on their side, at the moment.
There are many other people in visible positions in Ukraine who behave bravely today. One mayor has handed its authorities to his deputy and went to fight. Other mayors all stay in their positions and do care about their population being visible and active non-stop. There are political opponents of Zelensky who have put aside their differences and who are defending their country with weapons in hand. Many leading Ukrainians who we see are remarkably collected, and calm. They are visibly convinced in their rightfulness and they do deserve our all respect. They took it well. I was impressed by how people behaved at the critical moments at the railway stations and being inside the subways for shelters. Our personal friends are also behaving in the same way, being collected and measured.
From one side, we can see weirdly looking troops, unshaven, in dirty uniforms, sloppy, with empty eyes, without real understanding of what they are doing there. Those are the aggressors of the XXI century. On the other side, we see the entire country with weapons in hand, a good looking, clean, shaved, well equipped, motivated army who knows precisely well what they are doing and why. We can also see unified people who are knowingly resisting by all means, and in an organised, not chaotic way.
In short, this despicable war has provided the whole world with the tragic real-life spectacle: humans against ghosts. I am sorry, but such is the fact of the day. Russia is a huge country with a vast population, there is a lot of talent, a lot of brain-power, a lot of people with hearts in the right place, and with critically important levels of conscience, many of whom we are proud to have and call friends. It really deserves better.
There are a lot of protests against this mean war, globally and in Russia, too. Protests there are essentially important. Nevsky Avenue in St Petersburg was completely full with thousands of people on the day one of the Kremlin assault. People are individually protesting in Moscow and in about 30 more cities of Russia every single day. Those individual protests are more daring, and it is great that so many people did find it necessary for themselves to protest publicly in a hostile environment. All those people are normal people, with a normal sense of decency. And this is what counts at times like this. Decency keeps civility up, against psychopathological barbarity and dangerous delusional war-mongers.
I cannot tell enough how proud we are of our colleagues and friends who keep their back straight and their opinion articulated. Two Lithuanian theatre directors who worked in Moscow leading the best theatres there, Rimas Tuminas and Mindauskas Karbauskis, have left their highly-paid and prestigious positions in the protest. A leading world-famous choreographer Alexey Ratmansky not just left the work on his forthcoming premiere in the Bolshoy, but flew to his parents in Kiev to be with them, and conducts a daily campaign in support of Ukraine. Many leading theatres in both Moscow and St Petersburg, including the famous BDT and MHT theatres, plus Alexandrinsky, Gogol-Centre, and some others have all changed the official logos of their theatres inserting a dove of peace into existing logos. Our dear friend, maestro Evgeny Kissin has recorded two-minutes addressing his public world-wide, calling things by their real names, plainly, simply and powerfully.
Within Russia, several top actors, directors and producers whose work and income depends on their position towards the state directly, wasted no time protesting this psychotic war publicly, on the first day. Among them are Maxim Galkin and Ivan Urgant. Urgant’s program on the Russian main-stream TV Channel 1 was removed immediately. Same seems to be the case with Galkin.
Other big names of the Russian theatre and cinema have issued a public protest as well. One after another, private gallerists and serious art centres are closing down the planned vernissages. A very good Russian artist from St Petersburg whose artwork is on our wall is keeping her stand against this madness nobly from day one. I am not naming her here to avoid the persecution against this friend.
As I write it, a new open letter protesting this mean war, came in. It is from many leading Russian musicians.
There are over 6000 Russian doctors who have protested the war, and separately many distinguished academics from all spectrum of science, from physics to philology. There is another public letter of the hundreds members of the Russian culture elite who all have signed the protest. There are many journalists and the entire media who all turned publicly against the war, among them are not only ‘a few usual suspects’, but quite many new members of the League of Decency in Russia.
After three days of horror and tears, today we are energised and proud of our friends and colleagues, and all those decent people in Russia who not only understand what’s going on from behalf of their country, but who opted not to keep silent about it. Decency is the denomination of the day. Always, yes, but at the time of mean destruction twice so.
Day 3: February 26th, 2022
Just before the start of the Shabbat previous evening, a message appeared on my FB page. A friend from Kiev was saying farewell to all of us whom he could reach that way. Just in case. I was staring at the screen in total disbelief. I have known that man for about 40 years. He is a sober individual, a strong, commanding personality, not a hysterical type. I was in stupor from that disbelief. And terrified. Then I learned that several more people who are in Kiev currently also have sent their farewell to us, their friends, before the night during which the city was expecting a heavy bombardment and attack. When the Shabbat ended, right now, I found a message in my Messenger, from another friend who has sent another farewell, recorded one, from the gabbai ( a person who acts as a sexton in a synagogue) of the Odessa synagogue, with a huge and thriving Jewish community there. The gabbai, a very nice, quiet and kind man, was wishing Shabbat Shalom to all of us. He did it from a completely empty synagogue behind him, telling us that they have just completed the evacuation of the community, including all kids and pets, too. As the gabbai was saying his farewell to us all, people in Odessa were warned of a massive bombardment to come. Ariel Alhor, it is his name, was fighting tears, and trying to smile. That quiet tears, and that nicest smile is just completely heart-breaking.
Day 2: February 25th, 2022
Inna Rogatchi ©. The Storm of the Days. 2021.
This is a new reality in which we all are learning to live. The life is altered, and it is focused on the news from Ukraine and around it exclusively. The news is bleak. We are consoling those of our friends who found themselves far from families in Ukraine and who all, both those people and those families are crazily worried about each other. We are personally involved in getting some assistance and all support we can mastered to the friends who are stranded in the Dominican Republic without a possibility to reach home due to the destroyed airports and closed skies over Ukraine, those who are living in Germany with the vast part of the family is Ukraine and poor communications which are worsening on a hour basis, those who were working in Estonia and now cannot return home and have no means to stay in Estonia, and so on. Additionally to the general world extremely worrisome crisis, this war has brought so many personal crises in so many families, and not just Ukrainian ones. The German husband of our Ukrainian friend is so nervous that he was close to a heart attack, G-d forbid. And there are many husbands, wives, and other close relatives of the people who have become affected by the war directly. The waves of human anxiety, worries and sorrow are expanding. Such is the reality of the day. The storm.
When I made the artwork which is featured here, last year, I thought that I would never use it. I am struggling now to realise that it has become so acutely actual.
Day 1 – February 24th, 2022.
CRACKS THROUGH HEARTS
Our thoughts and our hearts are with our dear and beloved friends in Ukraine. We are worried for all of them and are hoping and wishing that all of them, and every one of them will be well. There are many people about whom we are thinking with love and worries now, and do nothing more except trying to be in touch with them and to hear that they and their families are well, with G-d’s help.
The graves of our parents, the graves of many of our family members and friends are there, as well. We are thinking about these graves with trepidation, every single day. And especially now.
A war is a war. It is a horror, anxiety, and bewilderment. It is tectonic cracks which go through people’s hearts. And which never mends leaving damaged, wounded existence ever after. In one life, in many lives, in a tissue of life.
Now, after all those decades of unlearned lessons, we are living through war, as well. This is terrible. This is awful, heavy, damaging and destroying experience, first of all morally. Infrastructures are mendable. People’s hearts are not. We are praying that this horror will be resolved soon. But scars in hearts and minds will stay for good. This is the reality, a sobering reality of war-inflicted wounds.