LIKE us on Facebook if you are here!
Also, upon completion we will be donating all documents and footage to any historical preservation archive that would like a copy.
A short synopsis if you will.
You will be taken on a journey through Central Europe as we share with you my grandmother's story within the elements as they exist today. From 1944 Czechoslovakia, to the year and a half she spent in two ghettos: Munkacs and Terezin; two concentration camps: Ravensbruck and Theresienstadt; and Auschwitz II - Birkenau, where she watched her parents perish among the hundreds of thousands. We will then follow the path she took to get back home to Pistrjalovo after the Soviet liberation. Here my grandmother was reunited with a brother, fell in love with a shoemaker, and they made their way to the united States in pursuit for a better life. And finally, through perseverance, how the work of a craftsman lead to a good life for a family who was ever so gently touched by the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Twitter: @Streeter_J and/or #sur_vive
Why you ask?
Only a short time ago we lost our last WWI Veteran. With less than 300,000 holocaust survivors still alive (which is an approximate and unofficial number), soon these people will only be remembered by what has been documented. We know about the war. We know about the Nazis. We know about Hitler and Goebells, Eichmann and Himmler. We know about the millions of lives that were lost, both Allied Forces and Axis-Aligned. But what we don't know much about is who these people really were and the fortunate few that still are!
This story spans across four generations the world over! I want to show people the importance and meaning behind the fact that this is my family. This is just one story that can be told out of the millions of stories that will never be told. I hope to inspire the almost 300,000 survivors that are still alive. Not to share their story of pain and suffering anymore, but to share their story of a second chance at life after liberation.
In 1989 when I was 11, my mother moved us from our family here in L.A. to the good old Midwest. We lived out there for over 22 years, but I always knew I'd be back in L.A. at some point in my life. In early 2001 I came to a realization that I wanted to be a writer - screenplays specifically. The beginning of 2009 was when I realized what I wanted to write about. But there were two HUGE problems: 1) I was in Minnesota while my story was in Los Angeles, and 2) How in the world would I ever be able to present this to a Grandmother whom I hardly even knew as an adult?
In November 2010, still in Minnesota, I was let go from a very good job. The instant I was summoned to my boss's office I knew what was about to happen. That's when a little voice went off in my head, "That's it, I am moving back home to California!" This was my first sign.
Not even two months later I was ready to hit the road. But not before the second sign.
The DAY before I left Minnesota I received a response from an email I had sent out over 9 months prior. In this email were historical documents and pages straight out of the camps and ghettos where my Grandmother had been. A few of which are in the video and can also be viewed on the pinterest link below. There were time lines, references, and pages straight out of the camp files! Everything I needed to begin my specific research. No words can express how blown away I was. Within the next 24 hours I was one-thrid of the way through New Mexico! First problem solved, and then some.
I arrived in Los Angeles on December 19, 2010. I stayed with a friend for the first three months. She needed a little scratch and I needed a place to stay until I got my feet on the ground. The best part is, I was less than five minutes away from Grandma's house; that's five minutes on L.A. surface streets. I mean I was really close!
I began to visit my Grandmother on a regular basis. As the first few weeks went on, I was soaking in everything that I remembered about my childhood. From that certain squeak of the kitchen drawers opening, to knowing exactly where that one treat I loved so much as a kid is sitting in the fridge. I kept thinking to myself this wasn't just a two week visit anymore. I was finally home! After a few weeks of spending quality time alone with my grandmother, she started sharing her story with me bit by bit. As she was opening up, I began to see a very bright intelligent woman. I could see it in her eyes, that she wanted to tell people her story in a very proud and matter of a fact way. Then one day over a casual lunch conversation - boom -the third sign. I'll never forget it either. Grandma looked at me and said out of the blue, "I've always thought about writing a story!" Problem two solved, and then some.
I cannot express how heartfelt and touching it has been writing with my grandmother. This whole experience has changed me as a person and my entire outlook on life. I am so happy to finally be able to share with you the vision I have had inside my head since the beginning. I love you Grandma! I love you friends, family, and fans! And I truly love all of you who have a story of your own. I hope this is inspiration for you as so many others have inspired me.
Are there any questions?
If you have made it to this point, then I thank you so much for even having a flicker of interest. On that note, before you go any further, I would like you to go back and watch the video again. Then come back here to see if you have any more questions. There is a lot of information there and we really tried to present you with as much info as possible without giving away a too much, just yet.
Either way, I still thought I should take advantage of the space allotted to explain a little bit more about our goal for the documentary in it's entirety.
The story will start with a bit of the conception of the project, to my return to L.A., and the time I spent writing with my Grandmother. From there we will lead into our trip through Europe as we retrace her footsteps and tell her story from within the elements as they exist today. The story within each element will most likely be told through a mix of the actual interview with my grandmother along side a grandson actually being there to tell part of the story.
I want to make an important point here! This will not be a vacation for us. It will be myself, the Director of Photography and a Sound Technician. We have a very detailed two week timeline drawn up that is becoming more specific each day we draw closer to making this a possibility.
We will begin our journey by flying into Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine where we will find civilian transportation to my grandmother's hometown of Pistrjalovo and to the city of Munkachevo. Specifically, the brick factories which made up much of the Munkac Ghetto (179.8 miles in all from port to both destinations). Keep in mind these two places were within the old Czechoslovakian boarders before the Soviet liberation.
From there we will make our way by rail to Krakow, Poland (218.5 miles) where we can rent a vehicle for the rest of our journey. The Ukraine is very strict on their boarder laws and rental places will not allow their vehicles to go to and fro. That also makes this trip a little bit more costly as flying into/out of the Ukraine is more expensive than most other Central European destinations. So we almost have to start thereif we want to avoid any foreseeable issues. We want to get in and get out as quick as possible and be done with it.
From Krakow, Poland we will drive to Oswiecim, Poland (42.5 miles) where we will visit what is left of the Auschwitz Compound and the Memorial Museum within. We will most likely spend more time here out of all the places we plan to visit for reasons that should be obvious.
Once we are done in Poland we will make our way to Terezin in the Czech Republic (321.8 miles). Here we will visit Leitmeritz/Theresienstadt/Terezin Ghetto, which were mostly one in the same. It seems that this specific area played different parts throughout the war; therefore, it had different names at different times (i.e. the Terezin Ghetto was the name given after liberation and was sort of a refuge for wandering survivors in the immediate area).
Then it's off to Germany as we drive to Ravensbruck (237.7 miles) located northwest of Berlin.
Once we finish in Ravensbruck we are off to Berlin (60 miles) where we can drop off the rental car and fly back home to Los Angeles.
All in all, we figure that this trip alone will use up no less than half of our money provided we hit our goal. Whatever is left over will be invested in quality equipment! Camera, lenses, lighting, sound, etc.
UHEM . . .Calling all Travel Agents and Video Equipment Suppliers.
This trip will cover my grandmother's entire story from capture, to the time she spent in the ghettos and camps, to the two days she spent in cover while the Red Army took down the Nazi's in the name of liberation. And finally, the path she took home to Pistrjalovo where she was reunited with a brother.and how shortly after she met my grandfather - which again is a story within itself that I cannot give away.
Once we return to Los Angeles, we will then dive into the life that these two survivors were able to make for themselves. How the skills of a simple cobbler, who was also an orthopedic genius with no more than a 6th grade education at best, was able to attract the attention of some of Hollywood's most glamorous stars.
There is also a reason why the video feels a little heavy on the shoemaker part. This is due to the little information that is available on what I believe my Grandfather had to endure through WWII. The bit that I do know will definitely be revealed, but you see, he was in the Czechoslovakian Army. Once the Nazi's occupied Czechoslovakia almost all Jewish conscripts (the young and strong Jewish men already in a military service of some sort) were almost always turned over to the Hungarian Labor Battalions. The specifics of the when and where are almost impossible to track without my Grandfather here to tell his story himself.
If you have any other questions about any aspect of the project what so ever please feel free to comment on:
Twitter: @Streeter_J and/or #sur_vive
Thank you so much for wanting to be apart of this project. Without you this project would not be a possibility for us! We hope to forever be in your good graces.