Daily Israel Report

"The Lessons of Survival"

Arutz Sheva speaks to Dr. Inna Rogatchi, writer, film-maker and photographer, whose latest project is a film starring. Simon Weisenthal.
By Rochel Sylvetsky
First Publish: 4/24/2014, 10:11 PM / Last Update: 5/14/2014, 12:11 AM

"I survived and that was a miracle", says the late Simon Weisenthal, summing up his Holocaust experiences in a recently released documentary "The Lessons of Survival", filmed by Dr. Inna Rogatchi. The riveting film is based on her never-before publicized conversations with the larger-than-life Nazi hunter as well as her own  research into fascinating stories and facts about the Holocaust.

Yad-Vashem has officially requested the film for their permanent film collection and library and Dr. Rogatchi was the special guest author at the European premiere of the film at the European Parliament's commemorative events for International Holocaust and Remembrance Day 2014.  The film was also screened and discussed at the Seimas ( Parliament ) of Lithuania at a special event in March 2014.

Inna Rogatchi, too, is larger-than-life. The internationally acclaimed writer, journalist, fine art photographer, movie maker and scholar enjoys studying inter-connections between people, history, and culture, and is also the creator of the Lux Sei Photo Art (C) concept in fine art photography.

She and her artist husband Michael,  renowned European master of 'metaphorical expressionism" are in Israel during the Passover season and Arutz Sheva took the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee with the indefatigable Inna, whose activities and accomplishments are too varied for  one  article to be able to do them all justice.

Inna described how she decided to "take on Soviet Russia" despite the personal risk involved when she published her book "The Shattered Generation, or The Ten Commandments in the USSR"  (1992)  a multifaceted, comprehensive analysis of Russian society and mentality. The book was short-listed for the Russian Booker Prize, acclaimed as "the encyclopaedia of the entire Russian life and character" by writer Irina Ratushinskaja , termed a "Nobel-prize' worthy portrait of Russia and the Russian character " by analyst and intelligence expert Victor Suvorov.

"Around that time, we realized we had better leave Russia", she said, "because my book 'Yellow Star in the Red Sky' (1995)  is an anti-Soviet  study of modern-day Russian anti-Semitism and extreme nationalism - and it was beginning to be acted out, against us.".

The book is exhibited in both Yad-Vashem Museum and the World Museum of Anti-Semitism in Israel. A special exhibition on the topic of modern anti-Semitism based on this book has been shown many times in Finland and other Scandinavian countries at numerous events and forums dealing with the most acute problems of international development.

Why Finland? The Rogatchi's gave up their Russian citizenship and moved to Finland, where they had lived during their 12-year old daughter's tragic bout with cancer. Inna recounts the sad story: "There was no fallback position in the USSR when the Chernobyl disaster struck. They had no contingency plans, no instructions  –  the authorities said whatever they chose to say, but no one knew it at the time. Our parents lived near Chernobyl and the official word was that it was now safe again. We sent our daughter to visit them and she soon developed a rare form of incurable cancer that is a result of exposure to radiation. Wonderful people who knew us through our writings and art helped us get to Finland where they were able to extend her life for a year. After she died, that seemed the best place for us to stay. And that is where I do my writing today."

A proud Jew and ardent Zionist, Inna says that she fears for the future of the West and writes and lectures on the dangers of militant Islam. "I wrote a series called 'The Origin, Objectives, Realities and Implication of the Militant Islam in Europe' - consisting of research, studies, presentations and public lectures I gave at the Institute of the World Politics, Washington DC ( US), and other international institutions on the one of the most important phenomena of the international development."

"It is a story of pretending nothing is happening although the facts stare you in the face.  My article 'Tolouse and Gaza' - on the reaction of the high European Union officials to the militant Islamist crimes in Europe, also dealt with that tendency.  I later wrote 'Future of Europe' – on the dangerous rise of ultra-nationalistic and extremist movements in Europe."
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The ongoing Ukraine crisis led Inna to send Arutz Sheva an illuminating article, 'Tea with Neo-Nazis' – on the violent nationalism in Ukraine and its anti-Semitic overtones, which was re-printed all over the world, in Poland, Canada, USA, UK, and other countries.

She had previously written "Pilgrimage to Home", an essay about the modern-day view of Ukrainian Jewish history and "Beginning of Decency", a detailed analysis of the crucial changes in Russian society - "it is actually a protest against Putin’s regime", she explains. "It hurts to see how the revival of Jewish life I depicted in 'The Legacy of Light : Drama and Revival of Jewish Life in Ukraine' collection is endangered once more."

The collection is the part of a massive exhibition project in London and New York that will be shown beginning in they year 2014. 

"It's necessary to see Jewish life in an historic perspective", she says, introducing her photographic exhibit,"The Route", a collection illustrating the directions taken by the Jewish people from the Middle Ages through modern times. It has become part of the Israeli Holocaust Museum Yad Vashem’s Virtual Centre, and provided material for their educational programs.  

"The Family Edition of 'The Route'", she continues, "is on permanent display at the Jewish Memory and Holocaust in Ukraine Museum, the largest of its kind in Eastern and Central Europe."

Dr. Rogatchi was special guest artist invited by the European Parliament to launch the collection in commemoration of Jerusalem Day 2012 in the presence of former MK Benny Elon and the Israeli state delegation led by then Minister Yossi Peled. Hundreds attended the event, and all sang Jerusalem of Gold - including the Polish president.

Inna comments: "I am an ardent Zionist and love my people and their country with all my heart - and hope that we will soon be able to make Israel our permanent home, although unfortunate circumstances prevented us from moving earlier."

The most moving of the many instances of Inna Rogatchi's unceasing efforts to make the world a better place, concern the way she and her husband memorialized their only daughter. Not long after Julia's death, the Rogatchi's founded Arts Against Cancer, an international charity which organized performances by famous musicians, using the proceeds to improve care for young cancer patients.

The  Chairman of the Board was maestro Mstislav Rostropovich, and among the members of the International Advisory Board were Queen of Denmark Margreth, Sir Paul and Linda McCartney, Maurice Bejart, Vladimir Spivakov, and many other outstanding figures. 

The foundation covered medications, helped sick children get the best available treatment, funded high level oncologists, among other  projects . "It was a way of trying to give others the loving care our daughter received and maybe even have a happier ending to their bout with cancer."

The foundation's success for over a decade led to the couple establishing The Rogatchi Foundation, which actively supports international educational, cultural, and charitable activities, such as funds for a special program and stipend for the Jewish orphans in Ukraine – the Annual Yenike Stipend , and Home Care for Jewish orphans who are ill. 

Among the members of the International Advisory Board of The Rogatchi Foundation are maestro Evgeny Kissin, Member of the European Parliament Sari Essayah, deputy Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament Petras Austrevicius, leading French philanthropist Marie-Helene Berard, leading British-American business woman and philanthropist Dr Herta von Stiege. Member of the European Parliament Hannu Takkula  is also a member of The Rogatchi Foundation board.

Inna adds "We have organized a five-year special programme for the teachers in Ukraine, introducing a special Award for Teacher Excellency, to stimulate teachers to conduct their job with more energy and appreciation, and to remind the public of the noble role of teachers in any civilised society."  

The noble role filled by the Rogatchi family in so many spheres is an example that is difficult to emulate. It is no surprise that the Rogatchis were awarded The Couple of the Year Award for Contribution to the Arts and Culture by  the New York Jewish Children's Museum, and are recipients of many other international awards.