«Jewish Observer»
March 2002
5762 Nisan

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When do we get to know Man? When does he show all his existential greatness or smallness? When does he demonstrate his moral power or inability to oppose the wrong? It goes without saying that it happens at the turning moments of history when he faces, perhaps, the main choice of his life - between the power that gives him the right to earthly life and justice - a dangerous, thorny path, which may cost him his earthly life. Such a turning point in the life of whole nations was the Holocaust when it was courage that was needed so badly, not so much by the victims as by their rescuers.

Mlyn is the title of a documentary which is based on the book "The town that doesn't exist" by the famous publicist Boris Khandros (he was the co-writer of the scenario). Mlyn is the Ukrainian for a water-mill which grinds everything that gets into it. This mlyn and the ruins of a synagogue were all that was left of the town of Ozarintsy in Vinnitsa region. The same mlyn under whose waterfall young Buzya Khandros liked to stand in hot summer days. The shot of the 80-year old man, wise with experience, who is standing under the old water mill is one of the strongest in the film. He came here to his native town to the Burik family from the encirclement in October 1941, here he was hid by two just women of the world Christina and her daughter Tamara ... There were tears in their eyes when people talked about Doctor Stukalenko - a real village doctor, that literally saved the whole town. There are no dates of his birth and death on the memorial plaque as just people do not die, they continue living in the hearts of those whom they have rescued ... The Yasinskys from Mogilev-Podolsky saved 20 people ... Every story like this is a short story of the film that was made by Igor Negresku (director) and Viktor Shuvalov (cameraman).

Yet even with these heroic deeds of individual people serving as the background there stands out the feat of the village of Yaruga that saved ALL of its Jews. Headed by the starosta Ivan Korovianko and the policeman Fyodor Kryzhevsky the villagers assigned the Jewish dwellers of the village to families (there was no family who saved fever than 10 or 15 people), warning everybody about round-ups in advance. And, first of all, themselves, as in case of a failure they would be shot in the same ditch. The Jewish men were given tobacco, to say nothing about food. And when, after the Germans had left, the starosta was arrested by the Soviet "competent agency", the Jews gathered 300 signatures under a letter which defended him and sent the letter to Stalin and Kalinin. Is he not a Ukrainian Shindler? Now there are no Jews in Yaruga, but there is a lump in the throat when you hear an old Ukrainian woman sing a song in Yiddish, which she learnt from her Jewish friend many decades ago. A separate story of Mlyn is German rescuers. The first one was Major Max Vitke who did not allow the SS soldiers to break into the ghetto of Pshemyshl and thus saved lives of hundreds of people. "I would save all the Jewish people, but it is beyond my power. Yet, I can save you", said Gunter Krull to Erukhim Rabinov from the ghetto of Plinsk in May 1942 after he had written out the "Auswais" for Petro Rabtsevich. The story of Rabtsevich was assumed by Verner Muller as a basis for his book. The writer was happy to learn that a German was courageous enough to save a Jew.

One episode that is not in the film is worth mentioning separably. In Germany, where part of the shooting took place, people kneeled down before Boris Khandros asking for forgiveness. The film itself was made with financial assistance of the Hamburg fund for promoting science and culture. "We are ashamed", said a teacher of history at the exhibition "The Holocaust tragedy" held in Berlin.

"I personally ask the Jewish people and those who will watch this film to forgive us for everything that happened", - signs her husband, an intelligent middle-aged man. The motive of guilt and memory is a red thread running through the picture. Funeral candles ... The millstone grinding people's lives and the river - a symbol of the inexorable course of time which leaves us nothing but our memories...


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