Chagall museum - in Brozi hotel?
Christian, the youngest of the children, continued the father's business. He expanded his business even more. Besides the times have changed themselves - rapid development of capitalism (especially after construction of the railway in Vitebsk) has caused prompt growth of the city population, development of its industry and, accordingly, the big inflow of traders and numerous businessmen. Christian Christianovich Brozi opened a new hotel in the house of the merchant Beinus Vitenbergh, which has been constructed in the beginning of 1890thes at the corner of Smolenskaya and Podvinskaya streets, by the stone bridge over the small river called Vit'ba (now there is an empty platform at the beginning of Tolstoy street preceding the bank's building). Being a rather effective and significantly big building, from Smolenskaya street it was decorated at the second floor level with arch windows and open gallery with an openwork metal lattice, it even itself was an attraction for a look of any traveler. Besides, from the practical point of view the building also had a very favourable location - in the center of the city and in the neighborhood of numerous offices. The first class hotel " Brozi " offered its clients convenient comfortable rooms at the rate from 50 kopeykas up to 3 roubles a day. Besides, there were a bowling alley, a billiard room and a first class restaurant with Russian and French cuisines where clients could order domestic and foreign vines and Riga beer in bottles or from flanks.
Together with Brozi hotel there was a shop of clocks and jewelry belonging to Sh.N.Rosenfeld (the father-in-law of the artist Marc Chagall), a confectionery shop named "Jean Albert", and also H.Shehter's furniture store in the building of the merchant Vitenbergh . Besides the master of art photo A.Makovsky, certificated by the court German photographers (as it was mentioned in all of his advertisements), had his office there, he agreed to requests of Vitebsk citizens even to leave the city limits for shooting. Artists could buy paints, brushes and other necessary things in S.Z.Jahnin's shop of office and stationery supplies with instant printing shop and warehouse of Dobrush paper-production plant of the prince Paskevich.
Bella, Marc Chagall's wife, spent her childhood in the family of the merchant Shmul-Neukh Rosenfeld. As Rosenfeld kept gold and precious stones in the shop's safes, he preferred to live close to the shop and rented the entire floor in one of the wings of the Vitenbergh's building. In 1935-1944 Bella wrote memoirs in Yiddish narrating about her life in Vitebsk - the book named "Lights lit". Written in the times when "her Jewish soul echoed anew, and her language became the language of her parents" (Bella Chagall. Lumieres allumees. Paris, 1973. P.387), the book represents memories of her childhood and yearly youth as well as of everyday life and celebrations in her parents' house described with warmth and love.
Vitenbergh's house and the Brozi hotel in the neighborhood made the leaving conditions uncomfortable. Playground for children was limited to the space of rooms and court yard. It was extremely dangerous to leave the house because of the heavy traffic outside. Usually the hotel was crowded and noisy. However, all inhabitants of Vitenbergh's house eventually got used to such way of living and willy-nilly did their own bit. The Rosenfelds, for example, kept a red cow in the court yard of the house.
The kitchen of the confectionery shop "Jean Albert" which owner came from Warsaw, was located right under the Rosenfelds' rooms, and Bella later recollected how frequently she was bewitched with the smells coming up from the below. If at that time she went out into the court yard, confectioners allowed her to lick the big spoon they used to stir chocolate being prepared. Bella described the appearance of one of them as follows: "The old confectioner who I am afraid of in the court yard, in the warm kitchen becomes sweeter than those cakes he bakes. His white apron has spots of sweet things with which he ices cakes. He has a big gap-toothed smile exposing his teeth which have turned black because of sugar. I can see him put a long curved hornlet into his mouth. Dense color cream splashes from the hornlet. On the cake a red flower blossoms, appear small green leaves (...) He knows, that I believe that he is a wizard " (Bella Chagall. Lumieres allumees. P.59-60).
In the family of Shmul'-Neukh Rosenfeld mainly his wife Alta was engaged in trading affairs who also kept the house. Bella described her father as a person who was more in everyday Morning Prayer than in timely payment of installments for credited purchases. Shmul'-Heukh, going to the synagogue with his sons, usually was the latest to come back therefrom. " What is the father doing there so long? - wrote Bella in her book. - Probably, other Jews who pray loudly disturb him, and he starts to say praises to the Lord only when the others are going to leave (...) Father facing the east, swings to the left, to the right, like a tree in the court yard which can be seen from our window. With his eyes shut, torn off from the world, he whispers Psalms! Verses are carried away, soar above him " (Bella Chagall. Lumieres allumees. P.46-47). Shmul'-Neukh was a zealous Chassid, and for many years a portrait of the Rabbi Shneur Zalmann was hunging on the wall in his house. He invited a Talmudist as a tutor for his sons; he lived in the Rosenfelds' house. Shmul'-Neukh liked to talk to him on various religious themes in the long evenings.
In her memoirs Bella recollects that her father was far from affairs of the local Jewish community, that he acknowledged with slight sadness. Nevertheless, in archival documents I found the records indicative of use of one of Shmul'-Neukh's houses in Ofitserskaya street in 1894 as a Talmud-torah - a brotherhood for education of the poor financed as a rule through public charity (NHAB, ф.2496, оп.1, д.4973, л.4.). In 1900 among other two merchants Neukh Rosenfeld was named in the list of the Vitebsk Talmud-torah's officers, which had two branches (Records book of the Vitebsk province for 1900, Vitebsk, 1900, p.30 / Памятная книжка Витебской губернии на 1900 год. Витебск, 1900. P.30).
Whole days Bella's parents were busy working in the watch and jewelry shop. Her brothers had their own businesses and the little girl, who all the relatives and neighbors petnamed Bashen'ka or Bashutka, was left all alone. Sometimes she quietly opened the door separating the shop from the living rooms and watched customers, workers or her parents work. Below you find Bella's description of the shop: "Two big gas lamps are burning under the ceiling and they are so loud that you might think they are sighing of pain. Fire is sputtering from beneath small iron netlike lamp-shades hardly able to stop hissing sparks ".
Two big walls are decorated with show-glass cases. Cases tower so densely immured that, apparently, can punch the ceiling. Their smooth doors open with ease. Everything can be seen, almost touched through the glass. On shelves are cups, liqueur glasses, sugar bowls, small plates, small wum baskets, jugs for milk and water, boxes for ritual vegetables - everything is sparkling and shining, as if they have been polished a minute ago. As I depart a little, the articles pursue me, as in a mirror.
In the middle of the shop grow three long counters with drawers. They divide the shop's space. The show-windows full of golden articles gleam as magic arks. Jewels of every possible color in gold rings, ringlets, brooches, everything is burning as if set on fire. The third wall is dark even in the afternoon. This kingdom of hanging long clocks reminds the depth of a dark wood.
Clocks of different sizes, big floor clocks, with thick chains holding the big weight of copper; others, better proportioned, with thinner chains and smaller weight; but from all fat floor clocks pendula, like terrible daggers, can be taken out. Small and even absolutely tiny clocks hide among big ones, only their white disks, lunar disks can be seen. The entire wall of clocks is groaning and sighing. From each box come constrained groans as though every second someone is being tortured under the dark wall (Bella Chagall. Lumieres allumees. P.135-136).
Shmul'-Neukh Rosenfeld had one more shop of golden and silver articles located in Vokzal'naya (translator's note: adjective from train-station) in the building of Shneyerson. It was run by his wife's brother Khaim-Leib and his wife Rakhel'. Bella writes about them: "The other shop of my parents, run by my aunt and uncle, was located on the other bank of river. Uncle came to our place early in the morning to receive goods and give day proceeds. Father did not trust him despite the fact uncle was mummy's brother " (Bella Chagall. Lumieres allumees. P.351).
Vitenberg's building and Brozi Hotel have not been preserved till present. Even though the building was destroyed completely it can be restored - there are draughts of facades and out-lines of floors in the archives. Not less important is the fact that the site of the building's location is empty. Restoration of the former Brozi Hotel would enrich the appearance of the historic center of Vitebsk and functionally it could be used to locate Marc Chagall Museum - as the building is linked with the artist's life directly.