How was the idea of the film born?
The development of the film started in 2006 when Olha went back for a summer vacation to her hometown of Lviv, Ukraine. She had taken her camera with her and was determined to tell the story of what had happened to the Ukrainian people during the Second World War. She felt that their point of view was underrepresented in the modern historic discourse. By a total coincidence, she found herself filming in the Univ Monastery in Western Ukraine, where Aharon Weiss was telling the story of his family and of the rest of the Jewish community in his native town of Boryslav. That’s how the idea of the current film was born; to tell the story of three nations that used to live on the same land of Galicia.
How did the filmmakers start working together?
After coming back from Ukraine, Olha started the Graduate program in Film and Electronic Media at American University in Washington, DC. That’s where she met Sarah, who had come to DC from Lebanon to start the same program. When she heard Olha talk about the amazing stories she had filmed, Sarah became very interested in the idea of this film, first of all because she found the stories fascinating and second because what happened in Galicia around the Second World War was very similar of what was still happening in her part of the world.
Since then, the two filmmakers have been working together on Three Stories of Galicia and other projects.
How did you choose the three characters?
We filmed more than 200 hours of material. At least twelve other amazing stories could have been included in the film but unfortunately there is only so much that one can put into a single film. From the very beginning, we knew that we needed one representative from each group: a Jewish character, a Ukrainian character and a Polish character. We also knew that we wanted their stories to focus on reconciliation and for that we chose stories where people help or are helped by someone from the other side who was supposed to be their enemy. Aharon Weiss was the first person to come on board, then we met Olia Ilkiv and finally, in 2008 we met Father Stanislav Bartminski.
The story of how Father Bartminski came into the film is actually an interesting one. We had originally focused on another Polish character, an old man by the name of Florian who lived in a remote village in Western Ukraine. We started to film with him but when we came back to do some more filming the next year we were devastated to learn that he had just passed away. We went to Poland to look for his sister, and as we stopped to see one of our friends in the town of Przemysl, he introduced us to Father Bartminski and the inspiring work that he does.
What is the purpose of the film and what are your plans with it?
In our film we portrayed three of the most sensitive and controversial subjects of the Second World War in the region: the Holocaust, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Polish-Ukrainian conflict. More than 60 years after the War, those topics still raise heated arguments and divide the three groups at stake. We set out to make a film where each group tells their story from their own point of view and for the first time ever, we put those three stories side by side. We hope that this will give each group the opportunity to hear the other side’s point of view and see some humanity in former enemies. We want the film to be used as a tool for reconciliation and dialogue and from the interest that we already received, we think we are on the right track.