When Ryerson alumnus Yuri Dojc and his documentary film team began filming Holocaust survivors in Bardejov, Slovakia in 1997, the photographer was unprepared for the unimaginable course of events that would later lead them to an abandoned Jewish school in Eastern Slovakia.
The result is The Last Folio, a travelling art installation dedicated to commemorating the lives of Holocaust survivors. The multimedia exhibition includes more than 30 photographs of objects and interiors, abandoned synagogues and portraits of Holocaust survivors. It’s accompanied by a documentary, also titled The Last Folio by Dojc and his producer, Katya Krausova.
In November, we spoke to Dojc about his personal experience with the Holocaust, and the two-decade, unimaginable artistic journey that led to the creation of his project, The Last Folio.
Here is an excerpt from that podcast:
You spoke to many survivors of the Holocaust. Is there anything that unites them? More their common characteristics?
… I’ve heard all kinds of remarkable stories. I’ve heard all kinds of stories of survivors of defiance. My parents particularly, hiding in the mountains so they didn’t go to camps, but they could’ve been caught at any time. Survivors were desperate to tell their stories because it wasn’t like the West, where we know a lot about what happened. In that country there’s not too much talk about it.
Is it true that one of the books belonged to your grandfather?
… A small, tiny book, with a stamp that says ‘Jakob Dojc, a tailor’ and city. It was written in – some words were in Slovak, some were written in Hungarian because all of these people speak three or four languages, that was part of the other Hungarian empire. I looked further into the book, and it said this book was given to Jakob Dojc by somebody called Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt is my uncle, so I knew that this was beyond any doubt a book that belonged to my grandfather. I was not looking for this book, I’d never even imagined that that book would exist, and from maybe 5,000 books in that particular place, she [Krausova] had to pick up the book which belonged to my grandfather.
Do you feel like you’ve been changed by your experience?
Totally. I found out things about my family I’d never known before. In the last years of my father’s life, he was writing a book about the history of Jewish communities in Slovakia. He begged me to help him and I just said “you know, look I live in a different world. This is nothing close to me.” When he died, I continued what he started. But that would change anybody. Learning about [my] parents, learning about the life before the war, it changed me as a photographer.
Currently, Yuri Dojc’s The Last Folio can be found on display at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and will be exhibited until May 14, 2017. The short film is available for viewing by the public, and can be found on the Art Gallery of Hamilton’s external,website.