Владимир Шрага, фотограф
RU
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September 2018
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At the annual conference of Holocaust Survivors at Yad Vashem Memorial Complex.

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Recently I’ve started my collaboration with Melabev. This organization provides care for elderly and especially for people with Alzheimer’s disease. A day before the first visit to their day care centers I was trying to prepare myself: I was ready to see people in awful condition, approaching the end of their lives. But what I’ve seen in reality was something quite opposite: relaxed, nice-looking old people, feeling themselves as comfortable as can people with such a diagnosis. Alzheimer’s disease brings a person back to his childhood. Slowly he becomes able to perform only the simplest tasks. The aim of Melabev’s centers is to make people feel comfortable with their current status. There are several groups: in the most powerful they give lectures to each other and read poems aloud, less powerful play cards or chess, the hardest group tries to catch and throw a ball. Anyway, people feel that they’re not alone, that there are people with the same problems around them, they feel comfort.

In Pisgat Ze’ev day care center of Melabev I’ve met a woman. She looks strong and interesting, her mental condition is not so good but her eyes are clear and wise. I came to talk to her, and she said she is a former prisoner or Auschwitz concentration camp. The word “Auschwitz” by itself makes me tremble, and this woman has passed through it and came out alive. How was it? What did she feel there? We can’t even imagine. And this woman remembers it and still has a tattooed prisoner’s number on her left hand. I’ve made her portrait. With laugh she has shown me the tattoo. It was a laughter of a winner. Long live Miriam and other strong people of her generation!

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Miriam Genut, former prisoner of Auschwitz, at Melabev day care center in Jerusalem. Photo: Vladimir Shraga

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This post isn’t about photography. It’s about great people.

Yesterday I was making just another photo session for my Holocaust Survivors project. At the gathering there was a guest. His name is Nikolay Ilyuchik. He lives in Belarus, in Bogdanovka village near Brest. He is fourty-something. When he was a child his parents were telling him about the local jewish people who were killed by the fascists during Holocaust. Neither monuments nor even cemeteries were made after the War by the local government to commemorate the tragedy. When Nikolay grew up he has decided to make a monument in memory of his killed jewish neighbours. Being a man of quite modest income he started to put aside finances for this project. He was collecting money during three years.

Nobody wanted to help or at least listen to him. “Who were those jews? Were they really killed or it’s another speculation?” Nobody in the village even remembers their names. The local government not only didn’t help. More than that. Nikolay was told not to “stick his nose to this topic”.

So he started building the monument for his own money with help of his children and close friends. And finally he has set up the obelisk at the place of murder of jewish villagers. But this wasn’t the end of the story. The authorities didn’t want to register the obelisk as an official monument. Moreover, they began to threaten Nikolay for “illegal capturing of the ground” on which the obelisk stands.


Photo from www.netzulim.org
At this place all the jews of Bogdanovka village were killed in 1942

The attitude had dramatically changed after several publications about the project in mass media. Something had switched after it in the minds of the clerks, and they began to show their support to Nikolay…

I’ve seen Nikolay yesterday. I’ve looked at his open face, we greeted each other and his hand of a hard-worker gave mine a good squeeze. Bonhomme with natural impulsions, so pleasant to know that such persons still exist.


Photo by: Vladimir Shraga
Nikolay Ilyuchik with his wife Raisa.

If you feel that you want to express gratitude to Nikolay by whatever means, don’t hesitate to call his friends in Israel for details: 02-585-79-89.

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Tel: +972 54 483-93-34
E-mail: photo@shraga.ru
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