The screening in Chernivtsi (Southwestern Ukraine, right on the border with Romania) was added to our schedule at the last minute and because of that, we didn’t have very high expectations in terms of a turnout. We went there nonetheless thinking that it would be fine if we had a good discussion with 30 people afterwards.
The drive from Lviv to Chernivtsi takes about 6 hours, so we had to get going by 5 a.m. By now, our small team has expanded to include several people who came onboard to organize different screenings and travel with us to the different cities. For Chernivtsi, there were seven of us, so a mini bus came to pick us up and we set out for a road trip along the beautiful roads of the Ukrainian country side. It had snowed a little overnight and the fields were all covered with a thin white blanket.
We arrived at 11 a.m. sharp. We came out of the bus, most of us still half asleep, and found ourselves right out of a fairy tale: Chernivtsi is among the most well preserved and most charming cities of Ukraine with a very dynamic and multicultural population. Our host (and moderator) Serhiy Osatchuk was already waiting for us on the city’s main square. “We don’t have much time, he said. Let’s get going.” And he proceeded to give us a speed-tour of the main landmarks, including “Sheptytsky Street” (a symbolic location since our Ukraine tour is funded and organized by the Sheptytsky Foundation), the opera house, the university whose unique architectural ensemble is now on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Jewish museum and finally the movie theater where our screening was to take place. Our local host chose that particular movie theater because it used to be one of the 70 synagogues in the city before the War. Many sacred buildings during the Soviet period were turned into warehouses, movie theaters, dance halls, etc.
At one point we asked our hosts how many seats the theater holds. “Four hundred” they answered. We politely smiled and thought: “Oh Lord, it is going to look so empty with just a few people there…” We should have had more faith. Arriving to the theater, we were greeted by journalists and as we were answering a few questions, crowds of people were passing us and walking into the theater. When we got it, four hundred seats were almost full and half of the audience was comprised of young high school and college students.
The discussion afterwards was one of the most interesting we’ve had during this tour. It was particularly impressive for us to see the involvement of young people. One girl stood up after the showing and said: “I thank you for making this film and for showing me the importance of saving the stories of my family. My grandmother died when I was 13, and at the time, it didn’t seem important for me to learn about what she went through. Your film made me realize that there is much more to our history than what we are taught right now in classrooms.”
On a side note, we are finding it extremely funny to be the center of attention. This time, we had a group of young girls who came to us after the showing and wanted to take pictures with us and have us sign autographs. Almost impossible to keep a straight face in this situation; we always have the urge to look back and see who they are really talking to…
This entry was posted on Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at %I:%M %p
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