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The Warsaw Voice » Society » October 29, 2008
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Remembering a Maestro
October 29, 2008   
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Eva Rubinstein, an art photographer and daughter of the late pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who was born in ŁódĽ in 1887, talks to Maria Sondej.

You have come to ŁódĽ to attend the first piano festival named after your father, Arthur Rubinstein. Are you happy about this?
Absolutely. This festival was inspired by Jan Jacob Bistrizky, the founder of the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Israel and its director for 35 years. Sadly, he never lived to the opening of the festival in ŁódĽ, as he died Aug. 22 this year. The Rubinstein Piano Festival is the work of one man, Wojciech Grochowalski. My entire family and I are eternally grateful that this festival has taken place and showed such high artistic quality.

My father is remembered in many places around the world, but nowhere as fondly as here in ŁódĽ, where he only lived until the age of 10. Then, he was sent to study in Berlin and at 17, he took up residence in Paris and would always have a home in that city. I love Paris as well and so I sorely regret we had to sell our Paris house after my mother died.

Did your father have any memories of ŁódĽ?
His childhood town was always there in his memories. I too like the city. I even made a photo album in 1984 entitled ŁódĽ-Momentary Meetings. It was a very special time; I couldn't help but think of Orwell and his book 1984. The album was published only 14 years later, in 1998, thanks to Wojciech Grochowalski who I met earlier that year. Back in the 1980s, I had difficulties having the book published, because the authorities in Poland at the time did not approve of some of my friends and so I was not welcome either. I was being followed all the time; I even got arrested once. I was taking photos when a demonstration began and I suddenly I felt somebody grab my arm. I had to get into a large police van, divided into tiny "cells." Thankfully, in my pocket I had a comb, my passport and an invitation from the ŁódĽ Film School, because the possibility of getting arrested had crossed my mind. That helped and several hours later I was free to go.

Did you often come to Poland?
I was here when important things happened: when Father Popiełuszko was murdered, during the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, and during the historic parliamentary elections in 1989. I also got to meet Lech Wałęsa and had a two-hour conversation with him in Gdańsk in April 1986. Snow was coming down hard that day and so I was surprised to see a woman standing in the staircase of the house Wałęsa lived in at the time. She looked like she was waiting for someone. Imagine she was still standing in the very same spot two hours later. I knew exactly who she was; I had learned to recognize such people on my visits to ŁódĽ. Women holding parcels, men reading newspapers... Some of my friends thought I was delusional and overly suspicious, but then they admitted I was right.

Are you a music expert?
I am not, but I do know music pretty well. I can name a tune after just a few measures. I am better at this than my father ever was. I have always listened to music, while he never had the time for it. I even bet him 50 cents once and won! He was convinced a Beethoven piece was playing on the radio and it was Mozart, which I knew right away. I was 18 then.

Was it hard to have a famous father?
It was. Always on tour, he was a transient visitor to our home. I was 18 months old and my little brother Paweł only three weeks old when our father embarked on a six-month tour. Our mother decided to keep him company on the road, a decision that was hard to make, but she decided she had no other choice. My mother frequently wanted to be in two places at the same time, with him and with us.

Do you ever feel tempted to write a book about your father?
Absolutely not. There are things nobody would ever want to know. My father was a wise and gregarious man; he played the piano beautifully, but this is not the whole truth about him. A brilliant artist does not necessarily have good relations with his immediate family. I might write down the true story of my family one day, but only for my own children. They have the right to know the story.
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