OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND
IN NEW YORK
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
THE GOMBIN JEWISH HISTORICAL & GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY
ON THE OCCASION OF
THE VISIT OF
MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND
REQUEST THE PLEASURE OF YOUR COMPANY
FOR THE SCREENING OF THE DOCUMENTARY
BACK TO GOMBIN
CONSULATE GENERAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND
233 MADISON AVENUE (Entrance on 37th Street)
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 7:00 P.M.
AFTER THE SCREENING RECEPTION WILL FOLLOW
1 646 237 2112
1 646 237 2113
and/or 1 (201) 656-3722
BACK TO GOMBIN
WILL BE SCREENED AT
THE INTERNATIONAL JEWISH GENEALOGY CONFERENCE
at the Intercontinental Hotel
Park Lane, LONDON, ENGLAND
JULY 10 (8pm)
AND AT A PRIVATE SCREENING HOSTED BY THE FREEDMAN FAMILY ON JULY 12.
FOR INFORMATION ON SEEING THE DOCUMENTARY AT THE CONFERENCE
CONTACT JOHN BERMAN at Zah@Ndirect.co.uk
or JUDITH DIAMOND at email@example.com)
FOR INFORMATION ON THE PRIVATE SCREENING
PLEASE EMAIL JEREMY FREEDMAN AT JEREMY01@GLOBALNET.CO.UK
OR BY TELEPHONE IN LONDON AT #455 4064.
I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU IN THE U.K.
SINCERELY, Minna Packer
The premiere of the Directors Rough Cut took place on November 12, 2000 at Alfred Lerner Hall,Roone Arledge Auditorium, Columbia University, N.Y.C.
A review was published in Ausbau, a German Jewish newspaper published in New York City.
My recent trip to London was in conjunction with the opening of the Holocaust exhibition at The Imperial War Museum. This is an excellent and comprehensive exhibition, four years in the making, on all aspects of the Shoah, including events leading up to it and the life after. It includes a video installation of the life before in the shtetls of Eastern Europe, and within the black and white footage of these innocent times is included some scenes from our own shtetl Gombin, as depicted in Sam Rafel's film from 1937. For me, this was an opportunity to meet with some of the curators and researchers of the exhibition, particularly Alison Murchie, who traveled with Leon Zamosc in Poland, acquiring material for the exhibition. She expressed strong interest in the documentary I am making and offered that the museum would be keen on screening it upon completion. I also met with Trudy Gold, the executive director of The Spiro Institute, and Paula Kitching, Spiro's coordinator of Holocaust and Racism Projects. Devoted to all things pertaining to Jewish history and culture, Spiro is housed in a beautiful old mansion at Kings College London. They are in the process of renovating a large main floor room into an exhibition and screening room. In anticipation of the completion of "Back To Gombin", and after viewing the photographs from the project by Marianne Galway, Ms. Gold offered to mount an exhibition and also screen the documentary in the spring.
My first few evenings in England were spent with my cousin Sandra Barnett (also a descendent of Gombin), in Hove. As the story was told to me, Sandra's grandfather, Sender Zielonka, left Gombin in 1912 with his young bride (Bessie), a Jewish orphan from Loivich. Sender was one of two older brothers of my grandmother, Dina Zielonka-Ber, my dad's mum. His intention was to join their oldest brother, Max Green (who had Anglicized the Zielonka name to Green, as it's meaning in Polish is green fields) in New York City. In pursuit of this dream, he handed over his last hundred dollars (or the equivalent in pounds) to a British seaman upon his arrival in London. The seaman commenced to sail him around the channel for a few days, docking at a point near where they had begun, but proclaiming that they were in New York. That is how that branch of the family remained in England and how it is that my father Michael has two cousins, Harry and Eva Green in London, who raised their respective families in the Ilford, Essex section.
I thoroughly enjoyed a lovely Shabbos and Shavuot at Sandra's schul in Hove, meeting her Rabbi and others who it turned out, have interesting connections to the Jewish world. The Rabbi told me a story about the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Nachman. He said Nachman wished for his disciples, after his death, to visit his grave every year at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. His grave is located in a small town in (I believe) Lithuania. The grave has steadily been encroached by buildings and development and now is virtually surrounded by buildings and exists in an alley between them. Despite this, every year, the devoted disciples of Nachman make the journey at the time of the High Holy Days. Every year the residents of the town enjoy an insurgence of these "tourists" who pay them the equivalent of one hundred dollars to stay in rooms in their homes, so they can be in the place to pay homage to this great Rebbe. The comparison to our projects in Gombin, as well as other Jewish cemetery reclamation and memorials was drawn, in that the homage to our Jewish ancestors helps to support the economy's of the places in which these people are buried. In addition, the places (Gombin and elsewhere) become our home base, the places where we, the Jewish community, the ancestors, meet and maintain the life of the community, our landsleit and it's propagation into the future. Some Jews among us, have expressed a resentment for supporting the economy's of places that were known as sites of anti-Semitism, but the purpose of supporting these communities for us, the descendants, is twofold. We get to pay homage to our departed ancestors, we create a Jewish foothold in the places from which we were driven and murdered. And we also use these stations as a departure point for all of our projects of Jewish remembrance, memorial and communications with our community, thus keeping our bonds to each other, the past as well as in the present, alive. It turns out to be a positive endeavor for all involved as it joins us as a community, despite varying religious observance and despite the fact that we live all over the world in our modern Diaspora.Other interesting people I met at the schul in Hove included a curator for the Brighton Jewish Film Festival, who invited me to screen the documentary at the festival. I met the director for The Institute for Jewish Policy Research, Dr. Winston Pickett, whose organization is involved in establishing and promoting cultural and diplomatic Jewish programs in England, France, as well as sectors of central and eastern Europe. He and his wife, Fiona, were quite familiar with many of the principals involved in our Poland projects, including Zygmunt Nissenbaum, Helese Lieberman, Yale Reisner and the Lauder Foundation. Whilst in London, I was graciously hosted by our own Gombiner landsleit, Jeremy and Jil Freedman. They had just returned from a sunny holiday in Israel, where, they reported that young Yedidya Witt, the son of Rabbi Yehoshua, had been released from the hospital, luckily recovering, Baruch Hashem, from the multiple fractures he incurred in his fall. They showed me a picture of him, and although thin and pale after his ordeal, he was beaming with his customary smile. Jeremy and I had lunch with a new Gombiner addition, a Mr. Ryan Helman, who works in media in London. Ryan's aunt, Sadie, was actually born in Gombin and is 87 (She was on holiday during my stay but Jeremy will be in touch with her directly). Ryan is very interested in our memorial projects in Poland and in the documentary. He plans to visit Poland this summer for a diving expedition (he is an expert diver), and will visit Gombin during that time. Jil Freedman, always the highly energetic and no nonsense facilitator, put me in touch with several contacts at the BBC and Channel 4 (Britain's public broadcasting channel). Communications have ensued and I am encouraged that the documentary will eventually be televised in England.
While visiting with Jeremy and Jil, Jeffrey Greenwood stopped by and I had the good fortune to share with him Marianne's 13"x17'" photographs of Gombin and a work in progress tape from the documentary.
The status of our work (Harry Kafka, my editor, and I are deeply into the post production editing) is that we have blocked out the first rough cut. I'm in the process of gathering the photographs, maps and archival material for cut aways. I am pleased to say that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but know that the last mile is the hardest. I will be involved this summer in a concerted fundraising and grant proposal effort to cover the costs of on-line editing (this is the necessary editing format for televising) sound production editing and the costs for the orchestra and music production for the final cut. Although I was hopeful for a fall completion, the process is lengthy, with numerous technical applications to particular frames and sequences. My editor informs me to be more realistic and expect completion around April. Although this is frustrating, as I'd hoped to enter it into festivals by the late fall, I must say the wait will be well worth it. The rough cut already reveals stirring scenes and riveting testimony and a structure that shows that this is more than another Holocaust movie but a gripping investigation from the perspective of the generation after. I am sure you will all concur when the finished product is finally realized. The story, the construction of which contains the telling of the events of early Gombin, the life before the Shoah, occupation in Gombin, the eyewitness accounts of survivors, such as Mendel Wruble and Jacob Spievak and others, the mission of the 2nd and 3rd generation to discover our roots and pay homage to the fallen during our journey to Poland, the reclamation of the Jewish cemetery in Gombin, the laying of the monument at Chelmno, the homage at the mass grave at Konin, and finally, portraits of Jews, children and adults, intellectuals and average citizens, struggling to reclaim a morsel of Jewish life for themselves in Poland today, culminates in a gripping tale of tragedy and rebirth.
It's been quite a journey and a tremendous learning experience for me, thus far. I am indeed blessed to be on this journey with all of you and to have the opportunity to put it into a cinematic form for this and future generations.