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Then and now: in a documentary the story of three child refugees from Salento after WWII

HAIFA, JANUARY 5 – Between 1945 and 1947 thousands of Jews who survived the Holocaust found refuge and safety in Apulia. Several hundred children were born in the Salento region but shortly after left for Israel, leaving behind their fleetingly Italian origins. Shuni, Esther and Rivka, “three daughters of the South of Italy”, are the main characters in a documentary entitled “Rinascere in Puglia – Shores of Light (Salento 1945-47)”, written and directed by Yael Katzir, which tells the story of the three women’s return to Italy after many years.

983fb56032c1ac1b726360eae9dd3d18_LMoving across the marvellous settings of Santa Maria di Leuca and the small neighbouring towns, the women pursue their search for information, testimonials and written and photographic documents that can contribute to retracing the story of their childhood.

Shuni, Esther and Rivka’s research features parallel traits to the story of other child-refugees born in other camps throughout Italy: UNRRA Camp 17 in Grugliasco, outside of Turin, is only one example.  Through interviews, archive material and newsreels, “Rinascere in Puglia: Shores of Light, Salento 1945-47” shows that Jewish refugees found a welcoming and friendly atmosphere in the Apulia Region. The locals helped them integrate into the community, with doctors and nuns assisting in the delivery of their children and in raising them.

Yael Katzir

Yael Katzir

The docu-film will be screened on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 7pm at the Haifa Cinematheque (Shderot HaNassì 140 – Haifa). Yael Katzir, the documentary director, born in Tel Aviv (Israel) in 1942, will be present at the screening. She is the author of many documentaries: Jasmine (2000), Shivah for My Mother (2004), Praying in Her Own Voice (2007) and Violins in Wartime (2011). The event has been organised in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute of Haifa.

Shuni, Rivka and Esther in the Municipality

Shuni, Rivka and Esther in the Municipality

The film focuses on the immediate post war period: 1945-7. Unveiling the story of the Displaced Persons Camps at the tip of the heel of the Italian boot, Yael puts the spotlight on a transitory phase, a time out or rather a recuperation period to normal life on the way to the Israel. “The sun, the sea, but mostly the Italian human warmth towards the survivors, captured my heart and imagination”, the director said: “It is an amazing story of rebirth. It shows the role and power of women, who were determined to fill the gap of their lost families and thus had the courage to give birth to their first children before they had a real home or even a formal ID. Bearing children in the DP camps was a constitutive event from personal, feminine, and Jewish perspectives”. In the maternity hospital of the DP camp in Santa Maria di Leuca, hundreds of babies were born. 50 were traced down in Israel today. (@Onuitalia)

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