The Baltic Times

Much too much love: a commemoration


 TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The exhibition Jewish Melody, of the original art series by artist Michael Rogatchi, will open at the Vilnius Jewish Public Library in the capital of Lithuania on Sept. 25. It will be the inaugural exhibition of the new series created by Rogatchi in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Vilnius Ghetto extermination.

The special date is widely recognized in Lithuania and at the highest political level. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite is participating personally in several commemorative events, and the Lithuanian parliament will held a special plenary session to mark the date.

Rogatchi has been invited with his Jewish Melody exhibition to Vilnius by the leadership of the Lithuanian parliament, by the leadership of the Vilnius Jewish Public Library and by the Vilnius Adam Mickiewicz Library, a well-known and distinguished cultural and educational institution in Lithuania.

Michael Rogatchi (C). Jewish Melody. 2013.

Importantly, the second half of 2013 is the period of the Lithuanian Presidency in the European Union when the focus of the public events in Lithuania is to promote the themes of international significance.

The Jewish Melody exhibition is also a part of the official program of the IV World Litvak Congress, which gathers in Lithuania in September. Hundreds of participants from all around the globe are expected to come to Vilnius, once known as ‘the Jerusalem of the North,’ to get together and to commemorate the sobering and significant mark in modern history.

Litvaks are a very notable group of Jewish people, all coming from the ancestors living in Lithuania and Poland.

Nowadays the Litvak people are living in the USA, Israel, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, many European countries, and many other places around the world.

The strong tradition and mighty intellectual and spiritual inheritance is still keeping the Litvaks together in modern day life. Among the Litvaks are many world-known politicians, writers, musicians, artists, scientists and businessmen.

The Jewish Melody exhibition is the only solo art exhibition during the events of the IV World Litvak Congress in Vilnius this September, and the artist is one of the very few foreign cultural figures who has been invited to participate in the events with their art.

Michael Rogatchi (C). My Grandmother’s Songs. 2013.

The Jewish Melody original art series has been created by Rogatchi specifically for the series of events in Vilnius in the autumn of 2013 commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Vilnius Ghetto extermination. 

His connection to Lithuania, Vilnius and the Litvaks is very personal, as parts of Rogatchi’s and his wife Inna’s families are Litvaks by origin, and they both feel a strong bond with this group of people, and the country of their origin.

Rogatchi has dedicated his Jewish Melody series to the enlightened memory of Sofia Litowsky-Reiss and Simon Reiss, Adel Chigrinsky and Abram Jelovitch, Bella and Isaac Buyanover, the artist’s and his wife’s grandparents.

In his Jewish Melody series, the artist wanted to emphasise not the motives of extermination, but the motives of love, life and memory.

In his images for the series, he wanted to create a loving and living thread connecting several generations of people, and remembering vividly those who perished because of the Holocaust, and in particular in Vilnius and its ghetto.

Thus, some of the works take viewers back to earlier times, some of them are set in the present, and some are set in an universal ‘time-zone’ reflecting rather our feelings and emotional connections.

Michael Rogatchi (C). Love Thread. 2013.

According to the artist, “The works in this series are as if ‘singing’ that ‘life is going on, love is in our hearts for our families and those who perished, and our living memory sustains us daily, making life dignified.’”

In the musical video-essay featuring Rogatchi’s series, a particular piece of music has been used, one of the most beloved and gentle Yiddish tangos, Ich Hob Dich Zefeel Lieb (I Love You Much Too Much). It is established historic fact that people in the Vilnius Ghetto were devotedly playing and listening to this very song.

Michael Rogatchi is world-renowned artist, the European master of metaphorical expressionism, he is the Finnish citizen who lives and works in Finland and Italy. He has held over 70 personal exhibitions. The Jewish theme has an important place in Rogatchi’s art.