In 2017 at the house in Riga, at Turgeneva str. 17 the members of “Free Riga” Association have found a closet (and some would say – a shed) with big number of artifacts – books, photos, documents, ritual objects. Exploring the collection, slowly started coming to light the story of the original owners – the family of Jewish entrepreneurs Ritovs. Its history like a water-pill reflects the entire history of Latvia in early XX century. Every member of the family is a bridge of a sort, a link to certain story that tells us something about Latvian Jewish history, but also about the era and society in general. Members of the family had different fates – better and worse, stories of success and tragedies – but today we return these forgotten fates to the mosaic of Latvia’s history.
Ritov family came to Riga in 1860s from Zagare in Lithuania, and for decades their main business was selling mechanic equipment for the industry and other metal objects. Some of the younger generation studied mechanics and engineering, and managed the company till it was nationalized by the Soviet occupation regime in 1940.
It could be that the first objects were placed in a shed in August of 1937, after the head of the family Benzion Ritov had passed away, and his religious books and ritual objects were stored there. Later all the kind of rarely used household objects were added. Probably the shed was closed with the family members preparing for worse – the latest object dates from July 1st, 1941, the day Nazis occupied Riga.
After extensive research “Free Riga” Association has donated the collection to the museum “Jews in Latvia”. The collection is available at the open storage as the part of the permanent exhibition of the museum. The exhibition is an attempt to show the richness and diversity, using the imagery of the shed, that has preserved the collection.
Founders, explorers and donors from “Free Riga”: Mārcis Rubenis, Krišjānis Zariņš, Ray Juster, Stig Stassig, Alise Ziemule, Ieva Lange, Anastāsija Šneps-Šneppe, Anna Štefane
Design and production of the exhibition: Kārlis Jaunromāns/T13, Māris Holsts, Rūdolfs Janovs
Collection research at the museum “Jews in Latvia”: Laura Melne, Dora Pauzere, Regīna Furmanova
Valsts kultūrkapitāla fonds
Fonds “Uniting History”