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Betsy Stirratt
Grunwald Gallery of Art
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Mandy Clarke
Indiana University Press
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Last modified: Thursday, August 25, 2011

Exhibition of photos of Slovakia Holocaust survivors to be staged in honor of art gallery's new namesake

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Aug. 25, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An upcoming photography exhibition -- featuring images of Holocaust survivors and of remains of the once-vibrant Jewish culture in Slovakia that was destroyed by the Nazis -- will be staged in honor of the newly designated namesake of Indiana University's Grunwald Gallery of Art.

SYNAGOGUE

Artist: Yuri Dojc

SYNAGOGUE Kralovsky Chlmec, 2006

Print-Quality Photo

"Last Folio: A Photographic Journey with Yuri Dojc," which opens Sept. 2 and will remain on display through Oct. 1, is made possible by a gift from Rita Grunwald in memory of her late husband, John A. Grunwald. It is co-sponsored by the Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program.

John Grunwald was a native of Hungary who survived the Holocaust in Europe and came to the United States in 1950. In 1956, he earned an undergraduate degree in economics at IU, where he met his wife, Rita. He died in 2009.

A naming ceremony for the Grunwald Gallery of Art in honor of John Grunwald will take place on Sept. 2 at 6:15 p.m. Also on Sept. 2, Dojc and his co-author, Katya Krausova, will sign their new book, Last Folio: Textures of Jewish Life in Slovakia (IU Press, 2011), from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

To read a previous announcement about the gallery re-naming, go to http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/17255.html.

Rita Grunwald, who provided a significant endowed gift to IU, said the renaming of the gallery in her husband's honor holds great significance for her and her family.

"Everything that you've read or seen about children and the Holocaust, John experienced that," she said. "Because Slovak Jews predominantly spoke Hungarian, sponsoring this exhibit and its visit to Bloomington seemed a perfect way to honor his memory. John and I did not have any children, and I wanted to find a way to perpetuate the Grunwald name. I've been thinking about how to do this for a long time."

Upcoming events at Grunwald Gallery

  • "War and Memory: A Symposium on the Last Folio." Thursday, Sept. 1, 3 p.m.-5 p.m., IU Cinema.The symposium will begin with a screening of Katya Krausova's short documentary film, The Last Folio: The Tales of Yuri's Pictures. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Krausova, Dojc and IU faculty members Ed Linenthal, Mark Roseman, Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeff Veidlinger.
  • "Art and Memory: A Discussion with Yuri Dojc and Katya Krausova." Friday, Sept. 2, 5:30 p.m., Grunwald Gallery. This event, moderated by Vice President Emeritus for International Affairs Patrick O'Meara, a close friend of the Grunwalds, will feature a discussion with the artist and film maker about their personal and artistic journeys in creating the Last Folio project.
  • "Grunwald Gallery Naming Ceremony." Friday, Sept. 2, 6:15 p.m., Grunwald Gallery.
  • Opening Reception. Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m.-8 p.m., Grunwald Gallery.
  • Book Signing with Yuri Dojc and Katya Krausova, authors of Last Folio: Textures of Jewish Life in Slovakia (IU Press, 2011). Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Grunwald Gallery of Art.

'Photography allows me to build a private memorial'

In 2006, Dojc, then a commercial photographer, encountered an abandoned school in Bardejov, Slovakia where time seemed to have stood still since the day in 1942 when its students were forced into concentration camps. He found still-opened schoolbooks and notebooks full of corrections and reports. (Remarkably, later in his journey, Dojc came upon a book once owned by his own grandfather.)

At his father's funeral in 1997, Dojc met a Holocaust survivor and decided to take photographs of the Slovak survivors before it was too late. He met one such survivor, Ruzena Vajnorska -- one of about a thousand young Slovak girls who, in 1942, boarded the first train to Auschwitz. Vajnorska allowed Dojc to accompany her on her daily rounds to visit other survivors.

In his journey across the country, Dojc followed the path detailed in a book his father had written on the country's Jewish heritage. He took more than 150 portraits of Slovak Holocaust survivors, a selection of which went into Last Folio: Textures of Jewish Life in Slovakia. The book also includes images of the ruins of schools, synagogues, mikvahs and cemeteries in what was once a vibrant community. With texts by Lucia Faltin, Krausova, David G. Marwell and Azar Nafisi, Last Folio presents a stirring tribute to a vanished culture.

"We all strive to leave something behind, a mark that remains after we've left," Dojc said. "But there is almost nothing left of the people whose lives were cut short during the Holocaust. Photography allows me to build a private memorial to them. It is through these photos that I can pay homage to them and keep their memory alive. I can only hope that my images will speak to the visitors to this exhibition."

Dojc and Krausova, who joined him five years ago, have searched for and discovered objects saved by the last Slovak Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors, while also collecting memories of how these remnants survived.

In one instance, a man who heard that his town's mayor was going to destroy a synagogue to make way for a parking lot moved in with his neighbor and donated his own home to store the books rescued from the neglected synagogue. The books remain in his house 30 years later.

Dojc and Krausova met a man who had purchased an old synagogue and wanted to transform it into "the largest disco in Central Europe." He allowed them photograph the once-majestic building that now stands empty and dilapidated.

"Yuri and I travelled many roads to small towns and tiny hamlets all over the country, meeting people and finding remnants of lives and fragments of memories," Krausova said. "Retracing the experiences of our families -- and the worlds in which they lived and died -- has been an enormously powerful journey that has been emotional, spiritual and deeply personal."

Photographs of the schoolbooks Dojc found in Bardejov are the centerpiece of the exhibition, which was designed by Daniel Weil (Pentagram).

Also featured are portraits of Holocaust survivors and images that capture the poignant ruins of schools, synagogues and cemeteries. Dojc's images speak of the destruction of time, the power of memory and the poignancy of the importance of preservation. Each image is rich with layers of material information, a fragment of what once was, communicating the power embodied in these abandoned places. The Grunwald Gallery exhibition includes a documentary film created by Krausova that follows Dojc through Slovakia.

About Yuri Dojc

Born in Czechoslovakia, Yuri Dojc arrived in North America as a refugee in 1969. Four decades later, his photographs adorn the walls of private collections and galleries all over the world, including the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the National Museum of Slovakia and the Library of Congress. In 2001, he received the Medal of Honor from the Slovak Ambassador to the United States for "We Endured," a series of portraits of Holocaust survivors.

About Katya Krausova

Katya Krausova is an independent television producer/director whose work has been broadcast on national television channels and screened at prestigious film festivals around the world. She arrived in Britain following the 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia and is a director of a leading United Kingdom independent film and television production company, Portobello Media and Portobello Pictures, which won the 1997 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for Kolya.

About John Grunwald

John Grunwald, who died in 2009, was born in 1935, in Budapest, Hungary, to Jewish parents. He survived the Holocaust in Europe and came to New York in 1950. He completed an undergraduate degree in economics in 1956 at IU, where he met his wife, Rita. After living in England and elsewhere, John and Rita returned to live in Bloomington, Ind. John spent his professional career with the David R. Webb hardwood veneer company, starting as a part-time trainee and rising to become the company's chief executive officer. He particularly enjoyed the rich local culture and actively participated in and supported all the arts offered at IU. He was also a devoted participant in the Hungarian Studies Program and mentored international students enrolled in the IU Kelley School of Business.

Additional Information

The Grunwald Gallery of Art is located at 1201 E. 7th St. For more information, call 812-855-8490, e-mail grunwald@indiana.edu or visit the gallery's website at http://www.indiana.edu/~grunwald. The gallery is open from Tuesday through Saturday, noon-4 p.m. or by appointment.

To order Last Folio: Textures of Jewish Life in Slovakia, call 1-800-842-6796 or log onto http://iupress.indiana.edu. For review copies and interview requests contact: Mandy Clarke, Trade Marketing and Publicity Manager, at mlclarke@indiana.edu.