Aja Vöchting, ved. Soggin (1925-2022)

Aja Vöchting, ved. Soggin (1925-2022)


Aja Vöchting, ved. Soggin (1925-2022)



       In his account of his visit to Rome during the Second Vatican Council (September 1966), Karl Barth briefly mentions a meeting he had "with our brethren in the Waldensian faith," evidently in the Faculty, since he speaks of it as the place where "Oscar Cullmann constantly had his residence during the Council years." He says nothing about the conversations he had with the "brothers in the Waldensian faith," but points out that he found among them "also an authentic Basilean." The "authentic Basilean" - and how authentic she was! - was Aja Vöchting, wife of Prof. J. Alberto Soggin, who left us in the evening of January 26. She would have been 97 years old in March.

A polyglot like and more than her husband, with a degree in biology, she had followed him in his pastoral and soon academic itinerary, but in this path she had always identified her specific vocation and her profiled role.

She had been profoundly marked, as was her husband, by the years she spent in Argentina, and by the link with our churches in Rio de la Plata. She spoke perfect Castilian and as long as she could, she cultivated the ties she had established.  

When her husband became professor of Ancient Tastamento at the Valdese Faculty, she worked with great dedication, constancy and authority in the library, directed first by Prof. Valdo Vinay and then by her husband. Her thesis at the Vatican School of Library Science (published in the Bulletin of the Society of Waldensian Studies in 1965) was a "Bibliography of the Writings of Emilio Comba." The caliber of her work transpires in the dedication of one of Valdo Vinay's books: "a faithful collaborator in pastoral and theological work." For years and years she was the backbone of the library, including the classification of the volumes, most of the time autonomously because of the competence she had acquired, then interacting with the specialists of the various subjects in problematic cases. No one knew the library like she did, and without her the directors with whom she collaborated would have had a difficult time.

She had a great passion for Israel and Judaism which she lived with great commitment in the Jewish-Christian Friendship, maintaining contact with all the friends she had been able to make during her various - sometimes prolonged - stays in Israel and learning modern Hebrew to the point that even in her old age, before the strokes of health deprived her of reading, she even read novels in modern Hebrew.

Her love of nature was evident in every corner of her house, overflowing with wooden bears, stuffed animals, fabric bears ... of every shape and form. Already scarred by illness, she would light up when documentaries about animals appeared on the television screen.

She was very attached to her adopted church, the Waldensian, and lived together a great ecumenical openness, both in the Protestant and Evangelical spheres and with Catholicism. She was animated by a cosmopolitan curiosity, facilitated by her knowledge of languages, which also shone through in the refined internationality of her cuisine.

In every convivial meeting, often with academics of international renown, with students generously invited, with important ecclesiastics, she was always an interlocutor, never just the wife of the professor. For six decades of her life she was "at home" in Rome, at ease in Buenos Aires as in Jerusalem, in Oxford as in Tallinn, always an "authentic Basilean"; sometimes thousands of kilometers apart, many retain the memory of her.