The Peretzniks

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The events of March '68 are still somewhat obscure in Poland. The political background is known, as are the film archives, and press coverage. However, little is known about how it was to grow up in Poland of the sixties as a Polish Jew, or as a Pole of Jewish origin. How it was to be a kid in the heart of a country still recovering from a horrific war, in a family severed by the Holocaust, and then to come of age and experience first loves at the outbreak of the disturbing March events. The experience of the 'Peretz School' pupils in Lodz in some way reflects the experience of the Jewish minority in Poland in the 50 and 60 of the previous century. It is the experience of adolescents nevertheless, who were much more interested in the Beatles than they were in politics. It was the latter, however, which caused for most of them to scatter all over the world, creating a peculiar phenomenon of a Polish-Jewish Diaspora integrated today in so many countries' identities.

The Peretz graduates' experience shows that though they were made to leave Poland, they never quite said goodbye, not quite to Poland and certainly not to old friendships. The emotions they show are not nostalgia, but rather a real part of their lives. This documentary is not another film about immigration. Nor is it a film about nostalgia for school years. “That school was our entire life” – one of the characters in the film says. “It wasn't just a school… it was a way of life” – says another. The Peretz school created a peculiar microcosm, where one could have a sense of security, but – most importantly – a sense of community. It was a common experience of the 'Peretzniks' that they were born in families affected by the Holocaust. For most, this meant not having any grandparents, or aunts or uncles, and often not having any siblings. The school was in some sense an extended foster family and an oasis, where our characters could feel like 'normal' kids.

This film tells the story of an exceptional family, which the 'Peretzniks' created for themselves in the heart of post-war Lodz, and which became perhaps even stronger because history made every effort to break it apart. 'The Peretzniks' is the first documentary, which addresses the complexities of Jewish existence in post-war Poland under the Communist regime.

To our parents and teachers, and to the memory of our lives in Lodz.

The Peretzniks

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