Posted Ian Shulman
Ukrainian poet and writer Ivan Franko is regarded as both a friend of Jewish people and an anti-semite. Let’s try to see how that’s possible, and attempt to analyze the complicated relationship between the Ukraine and Israel.
It happened in February 1893. After the seminar of Prof. Jagitsch we went to Cafe Zentral, where we were supposed to be met by Dr. Monat, Franko’s school friend from the gymnasium in Drohobytch. Instead of him at our table was Prof. Samueal Krauss, who was the secretary of ‘Israelische Alliance’ as well as publisher and editor of monthly ‘Am Urquell’. Having known him for about a month, we could have joined him at his table, if it wasn’t for a stranger he was sitting with. That’s why we greeted him and took another table.
- Come, join us, gentlemen! - said Dr. Krauss and introduced his companion. This was Theodor Herzl.
- I am happy to have a chance to meet you, - said Herzl to Franko. - Because my colleague has mentioned you to me for several times already. Not even has he mentioned – he told me so many things about you, that meeting you became my biggest desire.
- I really liked your idea of building a Jewish state – said Franko. I was especially interested in it, because it appears to be so close to our Ukrainian idea of establishing an Ukrainian state. But can any of them be realized?
- Why shouldn’t they be? - replied Herzl, - everything in the world is possible, whatever a human mind can visualize.
- A clever mind! - added Franko.
- Of course, a clever mind is the only one which people who would like to be considered as clever can talk about – continued Herzl. - Born from a silly or an unreasonable mind, even the most beautiful idea can only then be implemented when it wins the hearts of the masses, giving birth to its own defenders, even those ready for martyrdom. If we managed to escape Egypt and return to the Palestine thanks to Moses, why shouldn’t it be possible today?
- Back then, - argued Franko, - you had Moses and only a single Egypt to escape. And today? We, Ukrainians, have at least three Egypts to escape, and you probably ten times as much, for you are settled all over the world.
- Of course, Moses is not born each day: those like him are being formed by pressure from outside. And this pressure is much stronger for you then it is for us. If you manage to escape this pressure, as we did it, then your nation will start searching for their own Moses, and will probably find him, even though today they would rather stone him. Though, time can turn everything faster.
- Here I can fully agree with you – said Franko shortly and shook Herzl’s hand.
This is how the meeting of Ivan Franko and Theodor Herzl is described by Franko’s biographer Vasyl Tschurat. They were supposed to meet – Viennese or temporarily-Viennese intellectuals, bright representatives of bright national minorities of the great empire, ideologists and dreamers. Franko viewed the Zionist movement together with the Biblical exodus from Egypt almost as a role-model for Ukrainians. This comparison was reflected in his poem ‘Moses’, where almost each word of the prophet sounds equally relevant for Ukrainians and for Hebrews. Franko’s interest towards the Jews was also the interest of a writer, scientist and public activist towards a significant and ‘complicated’ group of population of his region, Galicia. “From cultural, historical and psychological standpoints, Galician Jewry is such a strange entity, that it can’t be understood as a whole either by a person on the outside or by an insider, for each of them sees a different face and acknowledges different values.” - says Franko in his article ‘The Jews that I know’. Franko knew ancient Hebrew and Yiddish, translated the verses of Jewish poets and folk songs, was generally interested in the culture of the Jewish people. It was Franko who wrote a foreword to the Lviv publication of “Der Judenstaat”, the main work of Herzl released couple of years after their encounter. And even though, according to the foreword, Franko doesn’t fully agree with the realism of Herzl’s idea of creating a Jewish state, the need for such measures seemed obvious to him:
“Antisemitism today is a widespread phenomenon; in some countries it’s obvious and loud, in some it’s much quieter, hidden in the village houses. Proverbs and fairy tales are filled with the spirit of antisemitism. The equality of Jews, which only exists on paper, is never realized; the higher position in state hierarchy are always closed for the Jews. Jews are being persecuted – in different ways in different countries, but always systematically. Governments which would try to defend the Jews would become unpopular. The need is oppressing the Jewish people, but this need and these persecutions are uniting the Jews, provoking the feeling of solidarity between them, the feeling of the national oneness.”
It can be said that the last sentence also addresses the Ukrainians, a group again compared to the Jews. An unexpected exception here is the novel ‘Boryslav laughs’, which is also dedicated to the liberation movement. Here, the story is told about the liberation movement of the workers employed at an oil refinery in a town of Boryslav, who organized the first strike in Ukrainian history. The exponents of the strikers are described as greedy Jews, the owners of the refinery who neglect the rights of workers for the sake of the gain. And even though not all Ukrainians are depicted as positive characters in the novel (there are also those who prefer riots and assaults rather then strikes), Jews act exclusively as violent and disgusting exploiters.
Another conflict of Ukrainian and Jewish interests was explored by Franko in the field of history. Studying the works of Jewish historian Nathan Hannover, who described terrible pogroms of 1648-1657 led by Bohdan Khmelnitsky, Franko argued that instead of historical truth, the historian was guided by his own fantasy and was exaggerating the events ‘in a biblical style’.
Can the demonizing of Jewish employers in Boryslav or denying the pogroms of Khmelnitsky be considered as antisemitism? In his article ‘The Jews that I know’ Franko anticipates such questions and provides the reader with an answer:
“...in my stories and poems I was using Jewish characters and introducing Jewish ‘tunes’ too often. For this I was accused of antisemitism by some Jews and of philo-semitism by some of my compatriots. The only thing I can reply to such accusations, that I have only depicted what I have seen in the way I have understood it, and in each Jew, as well as in each Ukrainian, Pole or Gypsy I visualized in my works I have always tried to see a person and nothing but a person.”
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July 15, 2012 | 1:48 pm
Posted Dana Addadi
The run down former synagogue of Šamorín, Slovakia was turned into a center for contemporary art in 1996 by Csaba an Suzzan Kiss, hosting mainly site-specific exhibitions with strong affiliation towards cross-sectional inter-cultural corporations.
Italian artist Marco Bernardi created project Interval 2012 specifically for the synagogue. Bernardi was born in Rome in 1969, where he lives and works.
He is known in Italy for his installations, videos and machines that repetitively produce mechanical and cyclical movements.
Pieces in ‘Interval 2012’ stand independently from each other, though they are clearly conversing with each other—not completely isolated, but not completely attached. This positioning allowed the creation of a mutual tension, especially around two noticeable works which are kinetically based. Both follow a constant motion dictated by an intrinsic rhythm- one radial and the other vertical.
A round platter of metal sticks are peacefully driven by the external force of a magnet – stationed above them, influencing the movement of the individual sticks. The sound produced is a reaction to these elements interacting.
Seventeen black cubes move up and down.The cubes are individual elements- different in height and position, but at the end of the electric string holding them in the air they are all connected to the same source of power/energy. (electricity plugged on the wall) Their setting in the space resembles a true congregation with a leader facing front (relating to the actual positions of the prayers in the synagogue) A German made metronome dictates the pace in a somehow remote and observant position, and a geographic map of Europe carved into the floor rubber gives the sense that the artist was trying to draw the EU as a new artificial community lead by Germany.
June 26 – August 20, 2012
Opening: June 26, 7.30 p.m.
Curator: Lýdia Pribišová
At Home Gallery
Mliečnanská 6, 93101 Šamorín
July 11, 2012 | 5:07 am
Posted Olja Andrynowska
Podrinje, known in English as the Drina Valley, is a region of Bosnia and Herzegovina which looks like it could be taken from a postcard. But the most famous, or rather infamous, images from the region are “Postcards from the Grave” (a Srebrenica survivor’s story written by Emir Suljagić).
On the 10th of July, a day before the anniversary of the massacre, people begin to flock to Potočari and Srebrenica. Those who survived the attack 17 years ago go back to the town to commemorate the anniversary of the massacre. Thousands of people from Bosnia and abroad participate in the March of Peace. They walk back to Srebrenica in the opposite direction of those boys and men who, in 1995, tried to escape when the enclave of Srebrenica was taken over by the army of Republika Srpska (very few of them survived this “March of Death”). Another 520 victims of the massacre were buried this year, but after 17 years many families are still waiting for the bodies of their beloved with fading hope. Even though mass graves are hidden in the soil of the dusky valley, to investigate is very expensive.
After the 11th of July Srebrenica grows deserted, but before it goes back to drowsy, fractured everyday life, Bosnian Serbs commemorating their victims will pass through the town. The arrest of Ratko Mladić is being called a success, thus closing a dark chapter. However the Bosnian Serb authorities again and again go too far and they deny the genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces supported by Serbian paramilitary troops. July 12th is a day when lots of radicals and the deniers may come to the forefront.Thousands of Bosniak civilians were exterminated (during the) seizure of the enclave by Bosnian Serb forces; to add to this suffering Bosnian Serbs have chosen the 12th of July as the date for their gathering. The celebrations in honour of Bosnian Serb soldiers which takes place just a day after the anniversary of Srebrenica massacre is a successful stab in the back for the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslims). Using images of war criminals should be banned, denying the genocide should be punished, but as long as they gather on the 12th of July, it is an attempt to manipulate public opinion and whitewash the traces of blood of 8,100 (facts based on DNA blood samples) Bosniak civilians or prisoners of war, slaughtered during July 1995.
The centuries-old Muslim communities of the Drina Valley were destroyed and the percentage of returnees is too small to bring a revival of multiculturalism to this region. There is a chance of improvement for the town with the return of some pre-war traditions - mainly, the reconstruction of the old mineral springs above the town called Guber SPA which used to be major tourist attraction in Bosnia, but Srebrenica remains but a shadow of its former self.
The list of the 520 victims is available here:
July 11, 2012 | 3:07 am
Posted Katarzyna Odrzywołek
5.07.2012 Day 6
My wake up process on the Thursday morning was too early and definitely too loud.
The municipal service, contrastingly, contributed to order and cleanliness of our beautiful city. “Sleeping beauty” Katarzyna sprang to her feet. Exactly at 10 o’clock I arrived at the Volunteers’ Centre. I need to confess that the 3rd Krakow gymnasium at Wąska street serves well not only during the school year - during the Festival every volunteer will find here something both for body and soul. A full jar of Nutella and fresh bread are featured and centered items. One can hide from heat here, talk to friends, and simply feel like they’re home.
I began the Thursday morning according to my tradition - assisting Mrs Monika Krajewska, the expert on tombstone symbolism. Before each such visit, I take an amplifying set responsible for the transmission and reception. That day, I decided to spend the on-call duty in the Volunteers’ Centre and that was a good decision as I was able to partake in “Volunteers’ Hell’s Kitchen”.
What can you do from the leftovers after the Israeli Cuisine workshop? We have 5 peppers, buckwheat groats, turmeric and great imagination of young women. One could only dream of hummus with pita, falafel or Israeli salad. I was quickly back in reality and I found on my plate a nice looking and smelling dish, just like at home. As my taste buds were rejoicing, a group of volunteers entered the Centre and praised Janusz Makuch. In Galicja Jewish Museum he answered the question “Why it is worth to be a heretic? - On not giving in to the History, that is why I am doing this (the Festival).”
Our mentor was allegedly at his best, he enchanted the audience and confirmed the volunteers in the belief that the things they are doing make sense. On the wave of the evening concert, he directed at us words of comfort and motivated us to the even bigger effort during the preparations for great Jewish Woodstock at Szeroka street. On Thursday evening I was responsible for securing the 2nd emergency gate during the concert of Mulakuż (Mikołaj Trzaska Ircha Quartet). Those fantastic musicians perform the experimental new Jewish music and I must confess that they are doing it great. When I was listening to the concert, lost in thoughts, an elderly lady suddenly entered the synagogue. As she did not have a ticket I had to ask her nicely but firmly to leave. The woman held my hand and said: “As a little girl, I lived with my parents at Miodowa street. In every moment possible I sneaked out of the house and peeped the praying Jews through this door. I loved doing it! I saw there familiar faces, I recognised children with whom I was often playing on the street. Now, I live in Vienna but every time I am in Kazimierz I enter Tempel and recall the still vivid childhood memories.” And that is true - one always wants to get back to Kazimierz. For me, as a historian, it is a separate city with a separate history and a still Jewish soul. The soul which, during the Festival, is located undoubtedly in the Tempel Synagogue. On Thursday evening, another great concert took place here - Paul Shapiro’s Ribs & Brikset Ravue (USA) - Essen. It was Cilla Owens who was acclaimed the queen of the evening. She amazed and bewildered the audience with her strong vocal and omnipresent charm and energy. The legs wanted to dance so together with friends we kept inventing new choreographies backstage. Almost two hours of the music featured were not enough, we wanted more! The concert’s continuation took place in Alchemia club which was ruled over by (attention!) the phenomenal Frank London. There are no words for describing what happened in the probably most famous club in Kazimierz…
July 11, 2012 | 3:04 am
Posted Linda Katz
Beauty is all around us and just because we seek it doesn’t mean we see it. The key is in the definition (of beauty) and the hope and expectation: ‘I’ll know it when I see it’.
There is so much pressure and unrealistic expectations of beauty because of fashion magazines and the silver screen. Then there is, of course, the ultimate celebration and proclamation of beauty: beauty contests, but I won’t criticize beauty contests right now . This post is about celebrating one important, unusual, and very controversial contest: ‘Miss Holocaust Survivor’. 14 women aged 74 - 97 competed on Friday, June 28th, in Haifa, Israel for the crown of most ‘beautiful’ Holocaust survivor. The criteria was (largely) on their survival story and lifetime work. Is a beauty pageant the answer to celebrating these women?
If it reminds us of the beauty of survival and the strength of the human spirit, I say yes. “This place is full of survivors. It puts us at the center of attention so people will care. It’s not easy at this age to be in a beauty contest, but we‘re all doing it to show that we’re still here,” the silver-haired Hershkovitz said. (Hava Hershkovitz was crowned the winner!) “I have the privilege to show the world that Hitler wanted to exterminate us and we are alive. We are also enjoying life. Thank God it’s that way,” added Esther Libber, a 74-year-old runner-up who fled her home in Poland as a child, hid in a forest and was rescued by a Polish woman. She said she lost her entire immediate family.
The pageant’s many critics felt focusing on beauty belittled the gravity of the Holocaust. Others felt the sponsoring cosmetic companies ‘making up’ the contestants were in it for their own gain. I say focus on redefining beauty. I think this is an opportunity to really, finally, understand ‘beauty comes from within’. A BBC listener commented on Friday’s story, ‘I can’t believe people came out of Auschwitz smiling’ (as a contest critique). Based on my chilly October day tour last year, I couldn’t believe people came out at all.
Imagine being able to survive such dehumanizing and horrific conditions, to survive and raise families, contribute to society, build the state of Israel, and have the humor to compete in a beauty contest.
I was and am filled with awe. Survival takes strength. If that’s not beauty, what is? I think about how ‘difficult’ it is to ‘survive’ in today’s economic downturn. In tough times it’s easy to shrug off shows of beauty, diminishing (my own) strength. Imagine holding onto beauty in the depths of your soul in a death camp, partisan forest, or a root cellar. 300 interested contestants obviously survived with strength and dignity. They deserve my respect for their example to primp and preen and flaunt their beauty . There are about 200,000 (aging) Holocaust survivors still alive in Israel. Sadly, Genocides continue. ‘Never Again’. The Holocaust wasn’t just about extermination - it is about miraculous survival. The Nazi’s and their collaborators showed the worst of human nature. Survivors, the best. Survival of the fittest! Winner, Ms. Hershkovitz, beautifully reminds us: ‘We’re still here.’
How do you define beauty? Is this an appropriate way to honor Holocaust survivors? Share your ideas!
July 8, 2012 | 9:52 am
Posted by Klaudia Klimek
During the Festival, everyone will find something for themselves, even kids. Parents can organise time for their kids in a nice way by enrolling them to workshops. Children learn most quickly through playing, which I experienced during yesterday’s workshop. Its theme was related to the Jewish house. First, the children gathered by a table which was a mini-exhibition of the most important every day life objects for a Jewish household. Among them one could see a mezuzah, a menorah, a kippah, a Chanukah candle, a wine goblet and more.
Additionally, a short multimedia presentation allowed further understanding. The children learned what a real Jewish kosher kitchen looks like, which dishes are neutral, meat or milk, what preparations the woman of the house does before the Sabbath and Passover. Amidst children shouting, as a volunteer, I watched over the order of art works and the general atmosphere of the workshops. I did it with pleasure, especially because I have a pedagogical background. The kids’ task was to draw a Jewish house and place a blessing inside, usually on a wall or in a window. The exhibition of over thirty pictures was impressive and each of them was really original. The workshops finished with a common singing and dancing to Israeli music. Popper’s synagogue, currently closed, is a vital cultural centre and during the year it often hosts similar workshops. When I was passing it a few days ago, I saw that in the temple’s garden a cycle of art workshops dedicated to Janusz Korczak took place. Both the children reading Kaytek the Wizard and the parents analysing his pedagogical benefited.
These meetings allowed the participants to learn innovative art techniques such as cottage, frottage or dripping. I can say that children bring me happiness and cheer me up like a bar of chocolate. The endorphins level increased significantly and the bad luck which haunted me for the last two days finally disappeared. I considered attending an interesting lecture. This time Paweł Smoleński, dr Stanisław Krajewski, Konstanty Gebert and prof. Shlomo Avineri discussed in the Center for Jewish Culture about Israel’s expectations of the diaspora and the diaspora’s of Israel. However, I did not stay for the discussion as I wanted to watch the workshop of Yemeni jewelry, especially because it took place at a barge moored at Bulwar Kurlandzki. Through the whole week of the “festival fever” an outstanding Israeli artist, Ben Zion Davis, has been presenting precisely the process of manufacturing particular elements of the jewellery. On the barge, the jewelry is available to buy as well.
I must admit, however, that it is not one of the cheapest souvenirs for purchase. Each madame who possesses it will attract jealous looks of other women. On my way to Tempel Synagogue for the concert of the Miller family I tried to look for a replica of such jewelry in our local Indian shop. Unfortunately I had no luck, at least in Poland. India is quite far from Yemen… So I contented myself with purchasing a nice tangle of turquoise beads in a promotional price which I will exchange one day for a Yemeni gem.
July 8, 2012 | 9:49 am
Posted Katarzyna Odrzywołek
During the day, each volunteer is on a 3-hour call duty. This is when they are to be most available within the Festival Office.There are three golden rules that apply to this responsibility: first of all a clear mind. Secondly, a turned on mobile phone. And, last but not least, 10 precious minutes in which we have to appear in the appointed place and perform the appointed task.
A volunteer is called in the event of emergency situations that occur during the festival. This became very true for me – around 11 a.m. I was called out by Paweł Kowalewski, the supervisor of all volunteers, to perform a task. It was a “bike tour” aimed at collecting programmes for the evening concert of David Krakauer. Taking advantage of an hour-long break, I ate a fast lunch and afterward I attended a workshop of Jewish Art. Its coordinator, Monika Krajewska, explained precisely what the prohibition of depicting people in Judaism looks like through the ages.
Unusual ways of bypassing the fundamental law of the 2nd commandment, which is the substantial base for the ban, are offered in the examples of mosaics in the ancient synagogues of Asia Minor and few preserved wooden synagogues in Europe. The participants could personally carry out some symbolic artistic representations and thus stand at the verge of God’s law.
And speaking of the verge—I think that on Monday I found myself in a “breaking point”. Before the evening concert, I decided to return to my apartment to refresh a bit and once I opened the door I saw sea of water. For a moment I felt like the biblical Noah but without the Arc. It was a flood. Its reason was, however, really trivial and hidden in the thirty-centimetre hose which connects the toilet with the water supply. As it usually happens—strangers were victims in this situation as well. Since water is an element that seeps and travels, in this particular case – two floors down, the help of “flooded” neighbour with a kind heart also happens to be priceless. It was mainly due to him that I managed to regain control over the situation. First, I dried the floor where the belongings of five students were and then, fast like a bolt, I left for the “missing link”,namely the magic hose.
This is how my prospects on 4-hour long rest turned immediately into a tireless struggle with the element which was under control only 30 minutes before the preparations for the Bester Quartet & Tomasz Ziętek concert began. On my way to Kazimierz district I received a call from the Office. The task was to pick up the musicians from the railway station. It turned out, however, that it was not necessary so I was able to stay at my place and relax with the sounds of wonderful music. Everyone found the concert of the clarinet virtuoso and composer David Krakauer to be the main event of the evening. He is a unique person permanently connected with the Festival and celebrating his 20th anniversary of participating. He was accompanied by the magnificent Sinfonietta Cracovia and conducted by Robert Kabara. As I stood by the main entrance for the artists I could watch them all more closely and controlling the lighting area I contributed much to the safety of the most important guests of the evening. And this is not irony. Music soothes manners and also helps with stress—and after my afternoon, I could use a little music.
July 4, 2012 | 2:51 pm
Posted Katarzyna Odrzywołek
On June 1st, I woke up in my quasi new apartment surrounded by boxes and luggage. I didn’t even think about unpacking because at 8:45AM I had to be ready and steady at the Jewish Culture Centre. Today I accompanied a group visiting Synagogues. On every street of Kazimierz there used to be at least one house of worship or a Synagogue. Some have been adapted into private apartments, but others hand survived the war – 4 out of 7 still fulfill their function today. Sunday service was a must, however the cool and peaceful church interior made me fall asleep. I was woken up by a strong sound of organ music heralding the end of the service. Quick reality check: iced coffee and a cold shower were just what the doctor ordered for this blistering heat. Onto the next events of Jewish Festival’s agenda. The lecture on Jewish Anti-zizonism held by Stanislaw Krajewski attracted quite an audience. Many important issues were discussed, turning the lecture into a fervent debate. Right after that I hurried for a book meeting with Joanna Olczak – Ronkier, author of memoirs about Janusz Korczak.
All volunteers were preparing themselves for the biggest event of the night: the Cantors’ Concert: Voice of Joy and Deliverance (Ps.118:15). It started at 7pm in Temple Synagogue. Every volunteer had their own task to take care of. Mine was to let in guests, take care of ticket inspection, give out programmes of the concert and also little souvenirs. Attendance was amazing even though there was a Euro Final game going on at the same time. Everyone has different priorities, but still it never hurts to kill two birds with one stone. Through secret channels, updates about the Euro games were passed on from one to another. When Italy was loosing to Spain outstanding choristers soared to unspeakable levels of synagogue, singing beautifully. After the concert I went to one of Kazimierz’s football’s fan zones in order to admire Spain victory and at the same time weeping just a little due to Italy’s crushing loss, my personal favourite team during Euro. I didn’t plan on being sad for the whole evening though, especially because I was about to go to Alchemia, where at midnight a great German band, Dirty Honkers, were playing. They sure did a great swing show,mixing it up with a modern pop-culture and contemporary beats and bassess that made everyone dance away. And with this optimistim, I ended a great and eventful day.