This film is a journey in search of my family origins scattered throughout Turin, Bergamo, Paris, Odessa , Samara and Chisinau. The journey begins with my search for Vladimir Ghelfenbein. Vladimir, Volodia to his family, was my great grandmother, Lisa’s brother. They were very close and always kept in touch. After the racial laws in Italy were enacted, Lisa hid in a convent in the mountains in Lombardy. Vladmir was never seen or heard from again. The film will be structured as a detective story. It unfolds as I do research in archives and interview witnesses to reconstruct the story: was Volodia arrested? Was he deported? Who placed the anonymous phone call warning Lisa so she could hide and save herself? What happened to the other siblings? What happened to the friends Lisa left with and who stayed in Turin? Finally, what traces of what happened back then still leave a mark in present day?
This project began as a personal investigation into the origins of my family. As a result of my research into Volodia, I was able to put together an archive of 12 photographs and 60 letters from Odessa, Turin, Chisinau and Paris, 20 brief messages written when Lisa was hiding in the convent, and documents that establish Lisa’s life in Italy. I haven’t completed my research on Volodia’s life yet, and I know very little of it beyond what I was able to gather from the letters. Much less than I was able to put together about the other members of my family. As I was researching, I realized that I could tell a centurylong, story about Europe. And that is what I’m interested in doing: tell a story about migrating in search of a better life; the opportunity to move, study and change jobs in a Europe that was open and accessible at the time; keeping ties with family and giving support that isn’t material; the changes that occurred because of legislation that closes borders and defines races. It is a story that is taking place now. Mine. Ours.