All in the Family

In his profile of badass Petersburg photojournalist David Frenkel, published today in the Globe and Mail, Anthony Feinstein focuses on Frenkel’s father (Alik, unnamed here) as the source of his moral courage and love of photography, not deigning to mention his equally badass mom (Lika) and badass wife (Varya). Or, for that matter, the “family business”: the St. Petersburg Jewish Community Center, one of the most incredible and welcoming places in the city, which Alika and Lika have run for many, many years. I miss all of them and the Center more than I can say.

Below the quotation from Feinstein’s article I’ve posted links to David’s, Lika’s and Varya’s numerous appearances over the years on this website. Thanks to Lika (Leokadia) Frenkel for the heads-up. ||| TRR

David Frenkel and Varya Mikhailova at their wedding on 23 October 2020. Lika and Alik Frenkel look on proudly in the background. Photo courtesy of Varya Mikhailova’s Facebook page

That Mr. Frenkel came to find himself with a camera recording voting irregularities may be traced in large measure to his outrage at Mr. Putin’s increasingly dictatorial rule and the unravelling of the rule of law in Russia today. “For some people in Russia, it has become uncomfortable just to do your job,” he said. “Being a scientist, it’s not enough. You do your job, you do it well, but it’s not enough to be a good person any more.”

[…]

In trying to understand Mr. Frenkel’s evolution from physicist to photographer, it is helpful to look at his early, formative influences. His family is Jewish, and his father is a Yiddish scholar and translator who photographed his suppressed religion and culture during the Communist era. Jewish religious holidays were forbidden, and therefore celebrated secretly. Mr. Frenkel’s father documented this underground resistance to Soviet orthodoxy – activities that came with their own risks. For example, his work provides a pictorial record of the life of refuseniks, Jews who were persecuted by the state for wanting to emigrate to Israel.

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