As directed by Slawomir Grunberg, this historical documentary discusses one of several deliverances from the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. Intriguingly, this particular series of circumstances entailed not an act of heroism or a valiant rescue effort per se (as, say, the Kindertransport did), but a by-product of political annexation.
Though only 300,000 of the 3.3 million Jews in Poland survived the Holocaust, 80% of those individuals found deliverance at the hands of the Soviets, who annexed Eastern Poland in 1939 - and promptly shipped its residents off to Stalin's gulag labor camps. That might seem a harsh fate to some (with the forced marches, hard labor, exhaustion and bedbugs), though it of course represented a welcome alternative to the torture and death of the camps, prompting at least one of the transports to refer to the gulag camps as "Heaven" in retrospect. In this film, Grunberg interviews seven of those who evaded the concentration camps in this manner; he places a particularly strong emphasis on transport Asher Scharf, who (along with his wife Schyfa) makes an on-camera trip to Chelyabinsk, Siberia - the location that once held the gulags. When the filmmaker and his subjects arrive, they then uncover another irony - the irony that many of the transports, upon being released from the gulags, were promptly shuttled off to Muslim-dominated Tajikstan and Uzbekistan and began new lives there. ~ Nathan Southern, Rovi
Title: Saved by Deportation: An Unknown Odyssey of Polish Jews
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Country: Poland, USA
Genre: Politics & Government, World History
December 1st, 2010 10:37 pm
I am familiar with the history of Polish Jews during WWII, yet I was very surprised to come across and view Saved By Deporation, for it depicted a story I was unaquainted with - the story of the survival of 200,000 Polish Jews who escaped the Holocaust by a twist of fate, their deportation to the Soviet Union. This film recounts in moving detail the story of survival during a very difficult time. I was completely touched by the main characters in the film, an elderly couple who returned to the former Soviet Union and retraced their journey. The cinematography was beautiful and engaging as filmming was conducted in Uzbekistan. I highly recommend this film.
– Alison Baker, New York
From: The International Warsaw Jewish Film Festiwal Festival - 'Jewish Motifs' April 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
W okresie II wojny swiatowej wywozenie ludnosci w glab ZSSR oznaczalo przewaznie jedno – smierc
Przyczyna byla nieludzka, katorznicza praca w odleglych obozach Syberii. Film Slawomira Gunberga „Ocaleni przez deportacje” pokazuje, ze wywiezienie do Rosji ocalilo zycie tysiacom Zydów, a nie kiedy bylo niczym w porównaniu z pieklem jakie czekalo na nich po powrocie do rodzinnego domu.
Film rozpoczyna sie od wydarzen roku 1940, gdy Stalin podjal decyzje o wyslaniu w glab Zwiazku Radzieckiego 200 000 polskich Zydów. Jak wspominaja bohaterowie, gdy dotarli na miejsce, mieli do wyboru: przywyknac albo umrzec. Przywykli. Jedni pracujac w kopalniach, inni scinajac drzewa na 50 stopniowym mrozie. Nie bylo mozliwosci ucieczki, nie bylo dokad.
Podpisanie polsko – radzieckiego porozumienia w czerwcu 1941 roku, poprawilo sytuacje Polaków na zeslaniu. Byli wolni. Teoretycznie. Nie mogli wrócic do Polski, ani udac sie dalej na wschód. Pozostala droga na poludnie. W tym momencie filmu rezyser zabiera nas w podróz razem z Aszerem i Szyfra Szarf, którzy przemierzaja ta sama droge co przeszlo 60 lat temu. Wspominaja to, co ich spotkalo. Z jednej strony choroby; malaria i dur brzuszny, z drugiej niesamowita zyczliwosc ludzka. Po wojnie wracaja do Polski. Nie byli w stanie przewidziec tego co zastana – szerzacego sie antysemityzmu, a efekcie mordu którego dokonali Polacy.
fot. klatka z filmu
Slawomir Gundberg porusza tematyke niezwykle ciezka, w która wpisuje sie takze wydana niedawno ksiazka J. Grossa „Strach”. Jak sie okazalo na konferencji zwolanej po projekcji, zakupem filmu nie byla zainteresowana zadna z polskich stacji. Dopiero niedawno Discovery Historia Polska zakupilo prawa do filmu. Moze jednak warto, zmierzyc sie z tym co trudne i bolesne?
By Monique Lewis
Press & Sun-Bulletin
April 13, 2007
SPENCER -- If Slawomir Grünberg can make the smallest difference in people's lives, then it's worth spending four to five years creating a documentary, he said.
Two of Grünberg's latest films will premiere this month in the region -- one film follows an autistic child prodigy from Vestal and the other recaptures the deportation of a Jewish couple to labor camps in the former Soviet Union.
Grünberg, 56, is an Emmy Award-winning documentary producer, director, cameraman and editor. He regularly turns out one to two films per year and has completed more than 40 television documentaries. Many of his films have been screened in theaters and film festivals worldwide.
Grünberg, of Spencer, said his projects are either something he discovers on his own or were introduced by people who ask him to bring to life a particular issue. The last local documentary he produced and directed was "Borderline: The People vs. Eunice Baker," which tells the story of a borderline mentally handicapped woman who was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison in the death of a young child in Owego. The murder conviction was later overturned.............................................................................
Grünberg's second documentary, "Saved by Deportation: An Unknown Odyssey of Polish Jews" is scheduled to screen April 19 at Cornell Cinema in Ithaca. It opens at a train station in Lvov, Poland, where Asher and Shifra Scharf begin their dramatic journey to retrace their deportation in 1940. The elderly Chasidic Polish Jews revisit their places of exile, unlocking experiences and events from six decades ago.
Co-producer and filmmaker Robert Podgursky asked Grünberg if he would be interested in directing the film, because of his family's experience of Jewish deportation.
"It just so happened that my father, who is also Jewish, survived in Russia," Grünberg said. "I decided to work with (Podgursky) on this project and it took seven years. It also tells the story of my father in some way, Karol Grünberg."
Slawomir Grünberg said it took a long time to gather funding and find people willing and able to travel to Siberia and Central Asia to retrace their history. He found the Scharfs in Brooklyn.
Grünberg's interest in photography began at the age of 15. He produced his first film at age 24 and attended the Polish Film School in Lodz, Poland. He graduated at age 30, moved to the United States and taught film and television for eight years at various locations, including Cincinnati, Chicago, St. Louis and Ithaca College.
"For me, projects start very small and innocent, and they seem to be very low key," Grünberg said. "You see this small work which you do can make a difference. You can see how powerful the camera can be, and that for me is a really good indication of why I'm doing this."
The Cornell Daily Sun
ITHACA, NEW YORK, MONDAY, APRIL 16, 2007
Cornell CinemaBy Mark Rice
Apr 16 2007
At the beginning of Saved by Deportation, a documentary by Slawomir Grunberg, one of the films’s featured subjects, Asher Scharf, reflects on his incredible journey and comments: “When it’s meant to be that you should be alive, you stay alive.” This simple quote is a summary of the enduring faith of Asher and his fellow peers who survived the dark years of World War II and the Holocaust through a strange twist of fate.
After the initial Nazi invasion of Poland, the nation was partitioned by the Soviet and German regimes. In 1940, Stalin ordered the deportation of numerous Poles under his control to the Soviet Union’s interior in order to work in labor camps. Of the approximately 500,000 Polish citizens transported, 200,000 were Polish Jews. The deported wound up in numerous labor camps spread across the Russian interior, where the motto was: “You get used to this life, or you drop dead.”
However, this harsh policy became a gift of life for many of the Jewish prisoners who were saved from the Nazi death camps. When the camps granted them freedom, the refugees had to embark on foot, train or any other means through Central Asia in search of a way home to safety. Along their journey, the prisoners fought off disease and hunger, but remarkably managed to raise their children, get married and, most importantly, maintain their faith.
The idea for this — in the words of the director — “biblical seven year” project was posed to Grunberg by Robert Podgursky, a co-producer of Saved by Deportation whose father was deported to the labor camps. Grunberg, a Polish Jew himself whose father also survived the Nazis in World War II, became intrigued with the project. In a recent interview, Grunberg commented: “In some ways this film tells his story too.” Grunberg’s efforts have yielded a wonderful, provoking film that has won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Washington Jewish Film Festival.
The film’s strongest asset is Grunberg’s decision to revisit the sites of the Polish Jews’ exodus across Central Asia with Asher and Shifra Scharf — a married couple now in their 80s who survived the experience. It’s one thing to watch a documentary that features interviews and archival footage. It’s a completely different experience when you can watch an 80-year-old man visit the same room in Russia where he huddled against the cold winter, or when Asher and Shifra revisit the places of their courtship and marriage that took place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. As Asher and Shifra reach out and interact with people who — 60 years later — live and work in the same coal mines, apartments and shelters, they also reach out to us as an audience.
A constant theme through the film is the strange nature of fate. Originally, the Polish Jews sent to Siberia believed that they were issued a death sentence, when in fact it was a roundabout gift of life. This strange result is even more difficult to fathom considering that the exiled Jews had no role in planning their own salvation. On the contrary, many initially tried to escape the deportation. It is a tremendous question of faith to ask why one has been saved when so many others have not. Even more amazing is how so many survivors look back on the hard experience as a gift. One survivor commented: “I think that it is only there that I became a human being.”
A secondary theme is present in Saved by Deportation, one that even Grunberg was surprised to discover as he filmed the documentary. It is the remarkable human kindness that often coexists with our history’s darkest moments. All of the survivors note the incredible charity that they encountered during their exodus through present-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 60 years later, Asher and Shifra encounter the same kindness in nations which our media and popular sentiment suggest would be the most hostile for Westerners, let alone Orthodox Jews. In one of the film’s most touching scenes, Asher exchanges stories, prayers and tales of his grandchildren with a Tajik man. Like the subject matter of Saved by Deportation, it is a wonderful, human proof of genuine faith and kindness, even in the face of extreme differences and challenges.
Cornell Cinema will be showing Saved by Deportation on Thursday, April 19 at 7:15 PM in WSH with local filmmaker Slawomir Grunberg, editor Christopher Julian and soundtrack composer Robby Aceto.
By Mark Rice at Apr 16 2007
Toronto Jewish Film Festival News
Savour over 90 films from some 16 different countries ...
By Larry Anklewicz, Programme Coordinator
The films this year cover a wide range of topics and subject matter...... Every year there are a few films that seem to strike especially close to home.... Saved By Deportation is the first film I have seen about the Jews who fled the Nazis and wound up in the Soviet Union. They were arrested and eventually ended up in the Soviet republics of central Asia. This saved the lives of over 200,000 Polish Jews, including my own parents.
Samarkand, Uzbekistan News, April 2007
“In some ways this film tells his story too.”
At the beginning of Saved by Deportation , a documentary by Slawomir Grunberg, one of the films's featured subjects, Asher Scharf, reflects on his incredible journey and comments: "When it's meant to be that ... via Cornell Daily Sun
The Jewish Week
Saturday, March 10, 2007 / 20 AdarI 5767
SAVED BY DEPORTATION
In relatively recent historiography, Stalin has been re-assessed as an egotistical megalomaniac and ruthless tyrant on par with his arch nemesis, Adolph Hitler. It has been argued that his mass executions of political dissenters and rebels was as ruthless and inhumane as anything Hitler did. The difference, at least in broad strokes, was that Stalin's genocide wasn't racially motivated, but rather political. In a new documentary by Slawomir Grunberg and Robert Podgursky, which makes its New York debut at Makor, "Saved by Deportation" tells the bleak story of Jewish survival under Soviet oppression. Of the 500,000 Poles deported from the country's eastern provinces, under Soviet control, 200,000 were Jews. They slaved away in forced labor camps in Siberia, among other places, but ultimately survived the war and built life anew. The same can't be said of Poland's western Jews, who under Nazi occupation had their grim fate sealed almost immediately. Grunberg's film documents this contrast, and the director will discuss it after the film's screening. — Makor, 35 W. 67th St. (212) 415-5500. Wed., Mar. 14, 6 p.m. $15.
April 13, 2007
Nowojorska premiera najnowszego dokumentu wspólautora "Plonacego faceta"
W nowojorskim The Makor/Steinhardt Center, w dniach 14 i 15 marca br. pokazany zostanie dokument pod tytulem "Uratowani przez deportacje: Nieznana odyseja polskich Zydow". Jest to nowy film Slawomira Grunberga, wspólrezysera dokumentalnego obrazu "Plonacy facet", zrealizowanego wspólnie ze zmarla kilka miesiecy temu Ewa Pieta.
Trwajaca przeszlo siedem lat praca nad filmem zaowocowala miedzy innymi nagroda dla najlepszego dokumentu na odbywajacym sie w grudniu 2006 roku Festiwalu Filmów Zydowskich w Waszyngtonie.
Film "Uratowani przez deportacje: Nieznana odyseja polskich Zydow" opowiada o losach 200 000 polskich Zydów, którzy unikneli zaglady w niemieckich obozach koncentracyjnych dzieki... wywózce do stalinowskich obozów pracy w 1940 r. Dokument przedstawia takze historie Ashera i Shyfry Scharf, którzy 60 lat wczesniej odbyli wedrówke z Polski przez Syberie, Tadzykistan do Uzbekistanu w Azji Centralnej. Ta malo znana opowiesc o przetrwaniu jest nie tylko opowiescia przygodowa, ale przede wszystkim przykladem afirmacji ludzkiej dobroci w trudnych czasach.
Scenariusz napisal, a takze film wspólnie ze Slawomirem Grunbergiem wyprodukowal, Robert Podgursky. Rezyser jest takze autorem zdjec i narratorem trwajacego 80 minut obrazu.
Slawomir Grunberg od roku 1981 mieszka i pracuje w Stanach Zjednoczonych gdzie wyjechal po ukonczeniu szkoly filmowej. Dzis jest jednoczesnie rezyserem, operatorem i producentem filmowym oraz telewizyjnym. Wsród jego dokonan znajduja sie miedzy innymi filmy: "Kazimierz Braun - na pograniczu kultur" (1994), "Chelyabinsk. The most contaminated spot on the planet" (1996), "Gus van Sant. Buntownik okielznany", "From Chechnya to Chernobyl" (1998), "School prayer. A community at war" (1999), "Zielona karta", "Zenceline. A company town divided" (2002), "B&B Guestbook" (2004), "Dziedzictwo Jedwabnego", "Wygnancy. Nieznani bohaterowie Solidarnosci" (2005), "Uratowani przed deportacja", "Portraits of emotion", "Plonacy facet".
[Artur Cichminski] Wersja internetowa dostepna jest pod adresem: www.stopklatka.pl/default.asp?w=36511
Washington City Paper
By Mark Jenkins
High Definition at the 17th Washington Jewish Film Festival
Documentaries that depict refugees and road trips are common in Jewish film festivals, but as Saved by Deportation demonstrates, there are still unexpected stories within this much-explored territory. The protagonists of this documentary are people who feared they were on the wrong side of the frontier when Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland in 1939. Some 500,000 Poles, about 200,000 of them Jewish, were sent to work camps in Siberia, where life was hard but survivable. In 1941, when the Germans and the Soviets went to war, the latter allied with the Polish government in exile, and the Poles behind Soviet lines were set free. Most headed south, where they made new lives among the predominantly Muslim population of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Director Slawomir Grünberg uses Asher and Schifra Sharf, a couple that eventually settled in Brooklyn, as his guides. Their visit to the lands that sheltered most of the Polish Jews who survived World War II is poignant, yet not without joy. At their 58th wedding anniversary, the Sharfs can show video of the city where they married, which is neither Krakow nor New York but Samarkand.
Film, Dec. 1, 2006
|czwartek, 14 grudnia 2006|
| Polski dokumentalista nagrodzony w Waszyngtonie
Dokument na temat Zydów „Saved by Deportation” w rezyserii Polaka Slawomira Grunberga zdobyl nagrode publicznosci dla najlepszego filmu dokumentalnego na 17. Festiwalu Filmów o Tematyce Zydowskiej w Waszyngtonie (Washington Jewish Film Festival) – poinformowano na stronach internetowych festiwalu.
The Washington DC International
Jewish Film Festival blog
Dec 3, 2006
Interview by David Horowitz
Saved by Deportation co-producer Robert Podgursky speaks with WJFF blog Editor David Horowitz
I understand that your father went through this experience, and that was your inspiration for this film, but you did not use his story specifically in the film?
I did not use him personally in the film because he was very young, he was only four years old when World War II broke out, and about 10 when the war was over. Even though he remembers quite a bit, we wanted to use older subjects for the film because they would have more substantive memories and different kinds of experiences than a young child, like my father.
Can you talk a little bit more about the personal connection to the story, what your family went through, and how that relates to the film?
The story that we tell in the film, typically, was a very positive story of survival. The subjects personally escaped much of the horrors of the Holocaust, and even though they had a difficult time for the most part in the Soviet Union, and many had family members and friends who did not make it, all in all, it was a story of survival that was very positive. Had they not been deported, had these Jews remained in Poland, they certainly would have been killed by the Nazis in the camps. Growing up, my father always told us stories of life in the Soviet Union and being in Central Asia as a child. Very typically, they were difficult stories, for example, my father lost his mother to pneumonia in the second World War in Central Asia, and that was very difficult for him. But generally speaking, his story and those of other deportees that we tell are positive.
How did you find the Scharf family, who feature prominently in your story?
Actually, by coincidence. I had contacted the Ronald Lauder Foundation here in New York, which is known to provide funds to support Polish-Jewish causes, specifically rebuilding synagogues, etc., in Poland, and the head of the Foundation is Rabbi Besser, a very prominent Rabbi here in New York. I contacted him and told him about the story, he was very familiar with it because he was a Polish Jew himself, and also because he knew the Scharfs, and he recommended that I contact them. They are a very well-known family in Brooklyn, especially among the Chasidic community, and they had survived this journey. What's remarkable is that when I went to visit the Scharfs for the very first time -- there's a lot that goes into deciding whether or not you can use a character in a documentary film or not, they might have a fascinating story but there are always other issues involved, such as do they have the motivation to make a return trip, are they engaging, how would they appear on camera? It just so happened that in our very first meeting with them, they had already acquired visas for Uzbekistan! They had wanted to go back on their own, so it was almost fated, in a way, that we came upon them and that they were willing to go back and be engaged in this project. It really made the film more poignant, to go on location and see these areas that had hardly changed in 60 years. Without them, the film would have been very different.
Slawomir Grunberg (the film's director), he is from Poland also, but was living in the United States when you met him?
Yes, he's been in the States for the past twenty-some years. He has a fascinating story himself. His father is a prominent Polish-Jewish scholar in Poland. Slawomir immigrated here 20 years ago, during the time of the Solidarity crackdowns. He had made an early film on Solidarity and came to New York to screen it, and was told by the Polish government, essentially, "Don't return." He left behind his pregnant wife and a child, and he was not able to see them for five years. He was already working on documentary films, he was a cinematographer who trained at the famous National Polish Film School in Lodz that Roman Polanski and many other famous Polish filmmakers had attended.
I had seen a film that he was the cinematographer for, Shtetl, that he and Marian Marzynski, another Polish Jew, had made in 1996 or so and that aired on PBS. It was a very well-known film about these elderly Polish Jews who returned to Poland only about 10 years ago to return to their small villages where they had lived prior to World War II, and recounted what life was like, and met up with the Poles who live there now, and they shared their memories, etc. It was a fascinating film, and I'd been carrying around this idea for my documentary for some time, and when I saw Shtetl, it just kind of jelled, that's the kind of film I'd like to make. It was a good format for the retelling of this deportation story, a first-person accounting of the return, using the voices of those who survived the deportation, as opposed to, say, an academic-historical film with scholars and talking heads, etc.
What's it like for you to do a World Premiere at WJFF, having done a Works-in-Progress screening with us earlier?
It's very exciting and rewarding. I lived in DC for many years, close to 10 years, and I attended WJFF every year that I lived there, and I would watch the films there, and it would inspire me. In many ways, Saved by Deportation had its origins at WJFF, because I would watch the other films made by first-time filmmakers, and I would be inspired and say to myself, "I can do that, too!" So, premiering my film at WJFF has a special meaning for me because of my personal connection to the Festival. The film would not have been made had I not lived in DC, because the accessibility I had to people like Aviva Kempner (The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, Partisans of Vilna), who gave me very sage advice, and the Library of Congress, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, all these scholars and academic materials that facilitated my background research were amazing to have. I would not have chosen anywhere else to premiere the film than DC!
I understand you're going to be a father soon. What are your thoughts on that, in relationship to the genesis of this film and its story?
That's a good question, I've thought about that a lot. In a way, I'm giving birth to two children this month! The film, and my human child-to-be at the end of December. I had wanted to do this film not just because of my father, who obviously inspired it -- and it's a gift to him and to all the other Polish Jews who survived this ordeal -- but because there were no other films on this subject matter. Their experiences were so different from those of the Jews who had lived under Nazi occupation. Their stories still needed to be told, and now that it's out there and finished, and having a human child on the way, it's great because I can now pass this history down to my child in a very immediate way. This child will know its grandparents' experiences. Obviously, had my father not survived, I would not be here, nor would my child-to-be. It's important that future generations know where they come from, and the experiences and ordeals that their ancestors lived through, it will help inform their lives in many ways, as well. So this is a very sweet moment for me with this film coming out right now, when my child is about to be born. Hopefully in ten years or so, when my child is old enough to appreciate the story, we will be able to sit down and watch the film together.
Mazal tov on both babies! And a last question that we're asking all our filmmakers - and this may be easy for you since you lived here - but if you could have one Washington, DC celebrity (political or otherwise) attend your screening, who would it be and why?
I reached out to the Uzbek and Tajik embassies because I thought they would especially like to send a representative to the screenings, especially in light of some of the controversy surrounding negative stereotyping in the (Sacha Baron Cohen) film, Borat. Unfortunately, both had prior commitments this weekend. I think Saved by Deportation is a nice story of inter-ethnic cooperation and friendship that really, today, we don't hear much about at all. Muslims and Jews came together in this story, and we'd obviously like to see more of that today. So it would be nice if representatives from the Embassies were there.
Interview by David Horowitz
Dear Slawomir, Warm greetings from Melbourne. We are wrapping up our festival (Festival of Jewish Cinema in Australia) and I want to thank you again for participating at our event with Saved By Deportation. I was very pleased to be able to present your film on several levels. As you may appreciate, we preview many, many documentaries each year dealing with WW11 subjects, but its not often we come across one that deals with such an important but hitherto overlooked subject Everyone was, of course, impressed and pleased to have seen your film. During the festival I received a lot of positive feedback and phone calls. They fell in two categories, my parents generation, who experienced the events relayed first hand, and my generation, who were both surprised and pleased to learn how our parents came to survive. As I may have already mentioned, the film mirrors my late father's own journey, from the time he was deported to a Gulag somewhere near or north of Syktyvkar (misspelt I think ? - do you know anything about this camp?) to his release to somewhere warmer. I wish you lots of success with this film, and would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to make more Jewish films, should you need any such encouragement. Kind regards,
Les Rabinowicz. Festival's Director, Festival of Jewish Cinema in Australia
I thought that you might like to know that my son Matthew and parents viewed a DVD of Saved by Deportation recently. As a result of your efforts, they had the unique experience of sharing my dad's (and the Polish Jews) Shoah history, visualized. It was very moving for them both.
I immediately viewed Saved By Deportation. Fascinating. Asher is like Santa Claus. I understand that humor, that world view, that attitude of revitalization. I grew up among the same people. I recognized some of the observations. The bedbugs. That was one of the first things that I recall my dad telling me as a child. They tormented him. The thermometer. The trees. He also cut lumber. He once told me his opinion of why Communism would never work. He said that they had an unrealistic quota of trees that they had to fell. The authorities would mark the downed trees. Due to the fact that they could not meet the quota, they would just cut away the mark and the authorities would recount the tree the next day. He also caught malaria, nearly died. He found some quinine and survived. They lived in Stalinabad, too. ... For me the most amazing thing about the film was actually seeing the Siberian barracks. Finally, after all these years, an image. My dad also left relatives behind when they fled Ulanow. He said goodbye to his grandparents, both in perfect health, in their late seventies and early eighties. At the time, they thought that they could not have made the trip. Maybe they were right and maybe they were wrong. ... I loved the fact that you ended the film with a wedding (a la The Godfather, but with quite a twist). I always go to the end of Shoah literature first. I have to see, read of the liberation, survival before getting into the material. It's all part of my essential "Am Yisroel Chai".