A Passover Message from Alla Umanskiy
Members of the extended Atlanta Jewish community expresses their thoughts about the 2023 Passover holiday, using the prompt, "Unity Creates Community."
I watched the movie “SHTTL”, as part of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, on a regular Thursday evening, in a half-filled theater. The crowd was mostly 60+, everyone talking quietly, while waiting for the film to begin. I was with two friends, all of us Ukrainian Jews, and the fact that we came to see a film set in pre-war Ukraine was not lost on us. As we glanced around the theater, one of my friends noticed a young man in the audience who seemed to stand out among the other older movie lovers. My friend pointed him out, “Look at him. He looks like Adrien Brody.” We laughed at the thought of the Oscar winner Adrien Brody coming to see a movie in Sandy Springs.
The movie “SHTTL” portrays the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany through the life of inhabitants of a Yiddish village at the border of Poland. We see a small settlement, orthodox Jewish life, a young man who left the village to go to Kiyv and has come back for the girl he loves. In some ways, we have seen it all before. “Fiddler on the Roof” demonstrates a similar life. In some ways, I’ve never seen anything like it. I sat on the proverbial edge of my seat, knowing how everything would end, and yet not wanting to accept it.
As you might know, the film does not end well. The tragedy of Soviet Jews and Nazism has been told and retold many times. As the movie wrapped, it was announced that there will be a Q&A with the film’s director and its star. The young man we saw in the beginning got up from his seat and walked to the stage. We gasped. He was, in fact, the star of “SHTTL,” not quite Adrien Brody, but every bit as wonderful in his role. He spoke eloquently of shooting the movie, of traveling to Ukraine right before the war, of what it meant to him. We sat in silence.
I was mesmerized by this movie, by its star, by this tragedy, and by the fact that it all took place in the country where I was born. My history so tightly wrapped around the history of the Jews of this (or any other) shtetl. A letter is missing from the movie’s title and that’s intentional. It symbolizes a whole way of life that disappeared.
Alla Umanskiy is a mother, wife, writer, and lover of sweets, living, working and raising a family in the Atlanta area.