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Gesher Galicia Programs at the 2008 IAJGS Conference in Chicago

Galicia Programs – Monday, August 18

11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Conference Film Festival
Film – Tovarisch: I Am Not Dead

One exceptional film of interest to Galitzianers will be Tovarisch: I Am Not Dead, which tells the story of Garri Urban, born in Stanislawow in 1916, who overcame adversity through a mixture of charm, aggression, and chutzpah. British filmmaker Stuart Urban investigates the life of his extraordinary father, who fled the Nazi occupation in 1939 for what he trusted was the relative safety of Soviet territory. There, he worked as a doctor, and got involved in a complex web of Communist activities. In 1992 Stuart followed Garri into the former Soviet Union to track down his KGB file, only to discover that he was still listed as an “international spy.” As Stuart goes in search of answers he could not get until his father was dead, the film takes the form of a probing analysis of an identity, a rolling narrative whose chapters bring fresh surprises in the 21st century. It becomes a testament to the fact that it is only after they are gone that we realize our parents had rich, vivid, complex adult lives before we arrived on the scene.

12:30 –2:00 PM
Gesher Galicia Luncheon

Speaker: Ellen Friedland
Documentary Filmmaker of:
A Torah Returns to Poland and
From Krystallnacht to Crystal Day: A Synagogue in Wroclaw Glows Again

Ellen Friedland is a filmmaker who has produced four documentaries since 1996 related to the rebirth of Jewish life in Poland after the collapse of communism. Based on the knowledge that she and her partner/husband Curt Fissel acquired working in Poland as well as the quality of their production work, they were retained by two private families whose roots were in the Galician towns of Frysztak, Rudnik, and Gromnik to produce personal documentaries recording family histories. Recognizing that many people today return, video cameras in hand, to the villages in Galicia (and elsewhere) where their families lived for centuries, Ellen will discuss ways to capture successfully the voices and visions they encounter in order to preserve the information for generations to come. The issues Ellen will address range from sociological awareness to technical forethought to tachlis in foreign places, using clips from these two films to illustrate her points.

This year, as at last year’s film festival, we are showing her documentaries. A Torah Returns to Poland will screen on Sunday, August 17th at 9:00AM, and From Krystallnacht to Crystal Day: A Synagogue in Wroclaw Glows Again on Wednesday, August 20th at 8:15AM.

Here is a brief description of her Galician-themed films she will be discussing:

Berger Family Roots combines a narrative genealogical history of a New Jersey family that stretches back to 19th century Frysztak in Galicia with anecdotes of both living relatives recounting stories of the family’s past and Frysztak historians and witnesses adding the context for the setting of the family roots. While the Berger family chose not to travel to Frysztak or the cities that play a role in the account, footage from these places and interviews with local people are captured by the documentarians.
Steiner and Lichtenstein: An Exploration of Family Roots focuses on a roots trip by an extended family from the USA and Israel to two ancestral towns in Galicia: Gromnik and Rudnik. The documentary begins with genealogical charts providing background for the journey on which the family embarked. It follows them, including some relatives who had grown up in these villages and had lost most of their loved ones in the Holocaust as well as cousins and children seeing these places for the first time, as they confront the homes, towns, and even people they had left behind more than a half-century before.

2:00 – 3:15 PM
Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine
Omer Bartov, Author and Speaker

Brown University Professor Omer Bartov, will be lecturing about his new book, “Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine,” which provides new insights into the past and present of the former Eastern Galicia, now in Western Ukraine. The lecture takes the audience on a tour of several cities and towns in the former province of Galicia, recounting the richness of their multiethnic (Jewish, Polish, and Ukrainian) communities before World War II, the destruction of these communities under the Soviet and German occupations, and the contemporary politics of memory in Western Ukraine, which is geared to creating a single national narrative and to eradicating all traces of the Jewish past. (This book is available via Amazon, or through most bookstores.) Book signing will follow.

3:30 – 6:30 PM
Gesher Galicia SIG Meeting

Agenda and Speakers:

  • 3:30 – 4:00 PM – Introduction to Gesher Galicia & Landowner Records & Cadastral Map Project Update. We will provide examples of how this untapped resource can complement vital record information and add another dimension to researching the lives of your Galician ancestors.
  • 4:00 – 4:45 PM – ITS/Bad Arolsen Film & Panel Discussion (Pamela Weisberger, Renee Steinig, Bill Fern) – Discussion of our May 2008 research trip to the International Tracing Service.
  • 4:45 – 5:00 PM – Mark Halpern – JRI Poland & Lviv Archive Records Update
  • 5:00 – 5:30 PM – Julian Bussgang reports on his recent Lviv trip & introduces the film Two Tangos: Portrait of Lviv, created by the Jewish community of Lviv which details life in the former Lemberg, both pre and post-war.
  • 5:30 – 6:00 PM – Gayle Schlissel Riley introduces film on Tarnobrzeg, made by the town’s high school students.
  • 6:00 – 6:30 PM – Rimalev: House Number Seven – a film by Will Kahane, who traveled back to the shtetl of “Grzymalow” to find the house where he, “the last Jewish child,” was born in 1946.

Galicia Programs and Meetings – Aug. 17-21

Sunday, August 17th
5:00 PM – 6:15 PM

Boryslaw – Drohobycz Research Group Meeting

Tuesday, August 19th
9:45 AM – 11:00 AM

Rzeszow Research Group Meeting

Wednesday, August 20th
9:45 AM – 11:00 AM

Suchostaw Region Research Group (SRRG)

Wednesday, August 20th
7:00 PM

The Litvak-Galitzianer Wars: The Cultural Geography of East European Jewry
Speaker Zvi Gitelman

One of the interesting evening lectures should be “The Litvak-Galitzianer Wars: The Cultural Geography of East European Jewry” which will be given Wednesday, August 20 at 7 pm. Four of five American Jews trace their ancestry to Eastern Europe, but that region was quite diverse in religious practices, Yiddish pronunciation, foods, customs, dress and political ideologies. Some of this diversity carried over to the Americas, but over several generations it has faded. This talk will explore the differences among East European Jews and the stereotypes to which they gave rise, illustrating the richness and vitality of a civilization, which continues to form Jewish life in Europe, the Americas and Israel. The speaker is Zvi Gitelman, Professor of Political Science and Tisch Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. The lecture is a Lucille Gudis Memorial Lecture sponsored by JGS, Inc. (New York City)

Thursday, August 21st
9:45 AM – 11:00 AM
Kolbuszowa Region Research Group (KRRG)

Thursday, August 21st
2:00 PM – 3:15 PM
Krakow Birds-of-a-Feather Group

Gesher Galicia is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people research their Jewish family roots in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire province of Galicia, which is today southeastern Poland and southwestern Ukraine. Our organization's primary focus is researching Jewish roots in Galicia, but the diverse community records in our databases contain names that span all the ethnic and religious groups who once lived in this region.

Search our free All Galicia Database, Map Room, and Archival Inventory today, and learn about our terrific member benefits for genealogists, researchers, and families, starting at just $36/year. You can join online!