Wednesday 5 May 2010
19.00-21.00, The Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre, Manchester Square, 18 Fitzhardinge Street, London W1H 6EQ; Tel. 020 7486 0295, ext 108; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Entry is free but booking is essential.
Transylvania, still a place with a very diverse ethnic make-up, used to be the home of a flourishing Jewish community. The turmoil of the 20th century, brought first by the extreme right and then by the communists, made this community all but disappear, its places of worship falling into disrepair. Erich Raducanu, known as the last Jew of Sighisoara, cared for his synagogue for over 50 years. He became an inspiration for the Mihai Eminescu Trust and is the subject of Jessica Douglas-Home’s talk. The Trust, chaired and founded by Jessica Douglas-Home, has started to protect and conserve Transylvanian synagogues, first in Sighisoara and now in Medias, after its successful restoration programmes aimed at Orthodox, Lutheran and Catholic churches. The evening’s presentation will include examples of the extraordinary buildings which the Trust has saved from oblivion.
Jessica Douglas-Home is a painter and writer. She has had several solo exhibitions. She has written articles for The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian and has written two books: ‘Once Upon Another Time’, on her experiences in Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall (Michael Russell Publishing, July 2000), and ‘Violet’, about musician and muse Violet Gordon Woodhouse (Harvill Press Oct 1997).
Jessica Douglas-Home founded the Mihai Eminescu Trust in 1986, during the last years of Ceausescu’s dictatorship, to help dissident Romanian academics keep in touch with western thought. In 1988, by alerting the world to Ceausescu’s plan to bulldoze Romania’s rural architecture, the Trust played a part in saving hundreds of beautiful medieval villages from destruction. After the dictator’s fall, the Trust turned its attention to the country’s cultural revival and rural regeneration. To date it has restored some 550 farm houses, barns, bridges, city buildings and churches. Its pioneering concept, the Whole Village Project, accords equal priority to restoration and locally inspired economic rebirth.
Andreea Valean is scriptwriter (‘Trafic’, Palm d’Or for short film, 2004; ‘The Way I Spent the End of the World’, Cannes Official Selection, 2006), playwright, and theatre director. She is the initiator of the dramAcum project that encourages the production of new Romanian theatre. For the first five years, dramAcum programme has been developed with the support of The Ratiu Foundation.
Among other plays, Andreea is the author of ‘If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle’ – the basis for the new Romanian film of the same name, winner of the Silver Bear award in Berlin, in February 2010.
Andreea’s latest work – ‘Don’t cry, we’ll all meet on the other side’, developed at Lark Play Development Centre in New York, is inspired by her grandfather. The play is about Stefan, a 90 year-old Jew going to New York to bring a man’s body back to Romania to be buried in a small Jewish cemetery. However, in New York he discovers that the man is not dead, but an old friend that has to be forgiven in order to die.
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Photography Exhibition: Old Synagogues of Transylvania – Portrait of a bygone community
5 May to 4 June 2010, at The Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre. Free admission. Opening times: Mon – Fri 12.00 – 18.00 (booking essential, by phone or e-mail).
This collection of images from Transylvanian synagogues, taken by Christian Binder, presents their dereliction as a direct consequence of the disappearance of a once-thriving community.
Transylvania once had a vibrant Jewish culture whose remnants are a dwindling community and crumbling buildings. The synagogues, built in times of plenty, bear witness to a great cultural wealth that needs to be rediscovered. Through this exhibition, the Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre would like to draw attention not only to the sorry state of the buildings themselves, but also to emphasise the Jewish-Romanian connections, and to discuss Jewishness in the context of Romania.
Organised by The Ratiu Foundation / Romanian Cultural Centre in London.
Culture Power is a programme initiated by the Ratiu Foundation, consisting of a number of presentations and constructive dialogue with an invited audience.
With the support of ProFusion International Creative Consultancy.
Photo: Walking in the citadel of Sighisoara, in the 1950s. Image from the collection of Erich Raducanu, courtesy of Jessica Douglas-Home.