Arriving at Drohobycz

This entry was written on the Bruno Schulz festival in Drohobycz, where we participated at the invitation and with the support of the Polish Institute of Budapest.
Over the Carpathians it is already autumn, the skeletons of the recently still richly blooming giant hogweeds stare at the sky as dry black claws. At dusk we reach the hilltop before Drohobycz: whiffs of fog and smoke of burning leaves float in the valley. Cows are heading for home from the fields, passengers from the evening bus.

This picture might have been seen eighty years ago by Bertold Schenkelbach, the city’s photographer, friend of Bruno Schulz, when on the way back home from his photo expeditions in the Carpathians among the Hutsuls arrived on the hilltop and the city opened up before him in the valley.

Chernowitz-born Schenkelbach changed the career of an architect, suggested by his parents, after returning from his Italian study trip, first for a literary and journalist’s, then for a photojournalist’s profession. And after his photos submitted in 1926 to the Polish national photo competition were awarded the second prize, he permanently devoted his life to photographing. He opened a studio at 3 Mickiewicz (now Shevchenko) Street, which became one of the centers of the city’s literary life. Here he gave to Bruno Schulz those glass negatives which then became the models of the illustrations of The Book of Idolatry. The studio was willingly visited by Drohobycz’s citizens, and later also by the officers of the German army and the Gestapo, who also appeared apologizing in August 1942, and saying that the list was not composed by them, and if it passed on them, the highly educated and completely German-cultured Schenkelbach and his wife certainly would have not been included in the transport heading to Belżec.

The photos of Schenkelbach had a similar fate as those of Menachem Kipnis or Alter Kacyzne. The negatives preserved at home were destroyed. Just recently they discovered in New York a few dozen of his photos, sent out for publication just like the few surviving ones by Kipnis and Kacyzne. They have been now exhibited, at the occasion of the Bruno Schulz festival, in the city museum. In two poor rooms encounter again each other some fragments of two, once parallel oeuvres: the surviving photos of Schenkelbach and those few pieces of Schulz’s last frescoes, which the Yad Vashem had no more time to smuggle out from Drohobycz.

1 comentario:

Effe dijo...

Great pictures. In Drohobycz there is always some "yesterday" which want to reveal itself to us.