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Der Vaser-Treger on Orphaned Street of Vilna

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Memory Stones series

Never Again what?

There are two schools of thinking on the matter of the way of commemoration of our tragic Jewish past in the parts of the world where Jewish life has been eradicated during Holocaust so efficiently. According to one school, everything ruined should be restored, for the sake of historical fairness if not for any other sake. The representatives of the other school are more pragmatic and they are asking: who will be praying in those restored giant synagogues? Is it good and proper if they will be staying empty?

I can see the points in both opinions, actually. Normal human logic prescribes to restore the objects which were destroyed. But normal human logic also wonders on who will be going there. The fact is that that unspeakable sadness which has become the overwhelming, ever-lasting constant after the Shoah is still in effect, 75 years on, three generations after the end of the Second World War. Will it ever go away? No, it will not. Such is the character of the crime committed against the Jews in Europe.

In those places which were not made if not entirely Judenfrei, but quite close to that, the vicious goal has been almost achieved to the chilling effect, with the consequences palpable to this day. Eradication of Judaism in the vast part of Europe has been successful to a stunning proportion.

This change is qualitative. It has to be admitted and understood as it is. Without these irrelevant ‘never again’ chants. Never again what? It is never again already: never again Volozhin, Mir and all this myriad of great yeshivas will be teaching Jewish boys in Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland, and all the places where they were flourishing. Never again there won’t be charming self-sufficient life streams in all thousands of shtetls all Eastern and Central Europe however modernised it all could be with time. Never again hundreds of Jewish professors will be teaching thousands of students all over in Poland, Germany, France and any other places. Never again Jewish musicians will bring that brilliance to their home countries all over Europe. Never again millions of Jewish people, substantially more than six million, will be living all over the places they lived during centuries enormously and indisputably enriching European economy, trade, science, industry, culture, everything. It. Will. Never. Happen. Again. Period.

So, how to commemorate the life and the people which had been destroyed in all this unspeakable cruelty with all this barbarian enthusiasm?

Der Vaser-Treger on the Vilna street

On Monday, October 19th, 2020, a new sculpture was unveiled right on the street of Vilnius. The place is the corner of Lidos and Kedainiu streets, the one of the entrances into the Vilnius Jewish ghetto. Some people with whom I am speaking today, are calling it, fully organically for themselves, ‘former Jewish ghetto’. I understand what they mean. For me, the Vilna Jewish ghetto, as any other our ghetto anywhere in the world, is always in present tense. I just feel like that. But there are some ghettos in which the air is an open wound. Vilna ghetto is just like that, for me, my husband and some of our friends.

So, the street has its new street-walker, the one casted in bronze, of a human figure size. His face is beautiful. He looks up. Many of us do. And did, always. Such a habit. The shape of his figure brings us a hundred years back, at very least. There is a well-known photograph of a similar figure, alive man, from a Vilna street taken in 1922. The minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, a known friend of Israel, Linas Linkevičius, has referred to that picture in his tweet about the recent event. There is another similar picture from Vilna taken five years earlier in 1917, which exists on the archival postcard in the collection at Beit Hatfutsot, The Museum of Jewish People in Tel-Aviv.

In a nice ceremony organised by the City of Vilnius and Vilnius Mayor Remigijus Šimašius, and supported by the Embassies of the Netherlands and Germany, gathered 30 people, the maximum permitted by the corona restrictions. The ceremony commemorated the second anniversary of the death of the author of that soulful sculpture, The Water Carrier, Der Vaser-Treger in Yiddish, Romas Kvintas, the outstanding Lithuanian sculptor who passed away so tragically and so early in October 2018. I have written about Romas and his input into the our commemoration process before, just after his death, in connection with his sculpture of Leonard Cohen which is also on the street of Vilnius.

Romualdas Kvintas and his Way of Memory

In a paradoxical phenomenon, due to the number of reasons, the outside world beyond culturally sophisticated and advanced, but laconic behaviourally countries, such as Lithuania or Czech Republic, do not necessarily know enough about big artists and cultural figures there, as it ought to. Romualdas Kvintas, or Romas as he was known to his family and friends, is one of those artists. He is widely........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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