Fragments of Memory

FRAGMENTS OF MEMORY is a response to Debora Vogel and her hometown of Lviv, a microcosm of Europe’s turbulent 20th century. Since 2015, Asya Gefter and Olesya Zdorovetska had been on a journey to discover Debora Vogel, an overlooked intellectual, writer, art critic of the inter-war Lviv. They walked the places Vogel inhabited and wrote about. They met people who survived the war and went on living, or were born long after and reconnected with the vanished world. They encountered the story of the former Lviv Jewish museum. The work that resulted from this voyage is concerned with the fragmented nature of memory, the presence and absence of people, personal stories pointing to Lemberg/Lwow/Lviv.

Asya Gefter & Olesya Zdorovetska, authors of ‘Fragments of Memory’ at the Lviv Museum of Ideas, September 2017 (photo by Yakov Lobkov)

Vogel’s experimental poetry, all written in the 1920s-30s, was, in the spirit of early 20th century European literature, radically avant-garde and attuned to all the modernist minimalisms. Being skilled in Hebrew, Yiddish and Polish, she published essays covering Lviv’s intellectual life and urban landscape, the role of women in society and art. Yet, her name has always been connected with the Polish prose stylist Bruno Schulz. Vogel’s own work received little attention during her life and after her death in Lviv ghetto in 1942.

Пазли Пам’ятi/Fragments of Memory was launched at the Lviv Museum of Ideas during the International Book Forum in Sep 2017.

Public discussion “How to catch up with Debora Vogel” as part of the ‘Fragments of Memory’ exhibition at the Lviv: Adam Pomorski, President of Polish Pen (top right), Danylo Ilnytskyi, Iryna Starovoyt, Yurko Prokhasko (bottom left). Museum of Ideas, September 2017 (photo by Asya Gefter)

“We had been overlooking lots of things in Lviv, living as if our everyday life had long ellipses in it but we just failed to notice them. We had been living as if we lacked the left hand, the right foot, half the spleen – and failed to notice that. We had been living as if we could only hear about 30 or 40 percent of noises, while the rest was passing us by without us knowing anything. Projects such as this show us that a place is important. For this whole writing, this whole life – an unhappy life – happened here, and it had to happen here, and it was brutal, and then there were thousands, tens of thousands, millions of such lives… And now, when we’re in this city, when we are peopling it – as guests who have come from afar, as those who seem to be here and to have been here for a long time – we are having a moment of insight, a moment when our hearing returns to us, while Debora is having a moment when her voice is returned to her.” (Iryna Starovoyt, literature critic, poet, translator, editor, lecturer and one of the project participants)

One of the most touching things about the exhibition was the visitors’ responses and comments they left. People shared what they felt, what it made them think about. They reflected on things we didn’t think about or didn’t notice ourselves. We hope this means we succeeded in creating a meaningful experience (with photographs, videos, music, texts) for the audience, that the project isn’t static and will evolve as we move forward. Here are some of them:

“This is an important, long-awaited topic. Tactfully done, with a very well measured amount of mourning and sweet sorrow. The reflections of our contemporaries are important.”

“I’ve felt a living, fading, tragic history of my homeland thanks to the artistic force of the photography. My best wishes to the authors.”

“The exhibition consistently unfolds in time and space. The corridor, the monastery vault makes one walk from a picture to a picture, from a text to a text… Consistently, like in a book.”

“Walking through the exhibits, one forgets about time, about transience of things; one begins to feel something eternal, something impossible to throw out of memory. One begins to understand that there are people, things, events that will always be with us.”

“That’s how it works: starting with one trace, at one place, the searcher finds traces, and then – a whole story which is connected to the world history.”

“Dash Café – Lviv on the borders of Europe” with Dr Uilleam Blacker from University College London, Josephine Burton, artistic director of Dash Arts, Philippe Sands, author of City of Lions and East West Street, artist Asya Gefter and musician Olesya Zdorovetska. Rich Mix London, 24 January 2018.

“Fragments of Memory skilfully reveals the complex relationships we have with the spaces we inhabit. The footage takes you around the hidden corners of the city of L’viv, places that contain memories, often troubling, sometimes happy, always moving. The voices of three women narrators unravel the multiple layers of these memories: personal, collective, institutional; forgotten, suppressed and cherished. The fourth voice—a revelation itself—belongs to Debora Vogel, a largely forgotten writer, poet and philosopher who wrote in Polish, Hebrew and Yiddish and possessed a complex identity, much like that of the city itself. She perished in the L’viv ghetto during the Second World War. Her words, which appear against the images of the city, are particularly fitting for a film that gently encourages us to remember the lives that were destroyed in the upheavals of the 20th century and to use these memories to rebuild what was lost and to build a new city. As one of the narrators in the film says, ‘only after accomplishing this memory work will it be possible to go further. Memory isn’t an end in itself.’ Fragments of Memory certainly succeeds both in remembering and in encouraging us to go further.” (Dr Olesya Khromeychuk, School of History, University of East Anglia, UK)

Articles, podcasts and interviews (in English, German, Ukrainian and Yiddish):

Interview with Asya Gefter by Guillet Aude, Catena Artistorum (Part 1)
Interview with Asya Gefter by Guillet Aude, Catena Artistorum (Part 2)

Article “Eine Stadt wacht auf” by Peter Althaus, Jüdische Allgemeine

Article ‘Multimedia Exhibit Breathes New Life Into Debora Vogel’s Poetry’ by Anastasiya Lyubas

Podcast on Lviv Radio Skovoroda with Asya Gefter, Anastasiya Lyubas and Olesya Zdorovetska

Discussion “How to catch up with Debora Vogel” with Iryna Starovoyt, Andrij Pavlyšyn, Yurko Prokhasko, Danylo Ilnytskyi and Anastasiya Lyubas

Review of the discussion “How to catch up with Debora Vogel” by Anastasiya Lyubas

‘The elusive Debora’ by Yulia Kushnir

The project has been supported by A-n Travel bursary (UK), Asylum Arts ‘Small Grant’ (US), Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign, Lviv Book Forum and Lviv Museum of Ideas. The plan is to tour the exhibition and develop a multilingual dedicated website with project material. In the meantime more information is available here: with links to articles, videos, photos, feedbacks and project updates.


ПАЗЛИ ПАМ’ЯТI – мультимедійна експозиція у відповідь на життя і творчість Дебори Фоґель, письменниці та критикині авангарду міжвоєнного періоду, та її рідного міста Львова – мікровсесвіту бурхливого XX століття Європи. Ця історія-подорож місцями Львова – cпроба дослідити пласти пам’яті через аудіовізуальні інсталяції, фотографії та тексти. Робота над проектом почалася зі збірки віршів Дебори Фоґель у перекладі Юрка Прохаська під час Форуму Видавців у вересні 2015 року. Протягом цих двох років авторкам проекту – Асі Гефтер та Олесі Здоровецькій – пощастило зустрітися з дивовижними людьми, які ділилися роздумами щодо роботи пам’яті, зв’язку поколінь, джерел страху і відповідальності за минуле. Важлива частина експозиції – матеріал з будівлі колишнього Єврейського музею у Львові.

Матеріали експозиції згодом увійде до окремого веб-ресурсу, присвяченого проекту. Тим часом з матеріалами експозиції можна ознайомитися на сторінці