«Jewish Observer»
May 2002
5762 Sivan

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Yael Strom, a musician, film director, photographer and writer moved to America form the former USSR. He has recently shot a film entitled "Lehaim, comrade Stalin!" - on a life of Jews in Birobijan in 1930s. "I was eager to convey an atmosphere of the time, to describe everyday life of people who then bothered to observe Jewish traditions. Many of them fell prey to Holocaust though this is not reflected in the film. I intended to show people I spent childhood with since many of them have already joined the silent majority. Let memory about them live forever, - says director.

He long studied achieves, processed the subjects and only after that took to film-making.

Film premiere took place at the Berlin film festival-2002. The film is abundant in references to Jewish traditions. In Strom's opinion, it was impossible to bypass this, as a tradition for him is the most valuable the Jewish people has. The picture tells about Birobijan's creation, life of Jews at that time. This is rather a historic than a feature film, believes its director. Film produced a strong impression as it represents a peculiar kaleidoscope of feelings and events. Confusion, struggle, disappointment, idyllic and ironic subjects alternate with nothing prevailing. Director sees history of the Jewish people in this way.

"I planned to propound about a unique place artificially created by Stalin, - says Strom. - People arrived there and started their life anew, without money and dwellings. But they coped with hardships, constructed houses and always remembered traditions of their folk. What helped them survive? That's where a Jewish mystery lies, what I wanted to tell about.

At that time 40 thousands Jews inhabited Birobijan, whereas at present - only several thousand. But those remaining there keep supporting Jewish traditions, speak Yiddish.

Storm has published several books on the life of Jewish communities in Europe, recorded several CDs of klezmer music. Though, all this was meant for, so to say, "close surrounding", since wide public circles usually take no interest in serious historic research works.

At present when the film is, finally, ready Storm has achieved his dream: people will learn about a Jewish life in the former USSR.


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