Published on February 27, 2014 by admin

The past couple of years have been brisk in the life of “Prisoner of Her Past.” Among the highlights:

Oct. 8-9, 2012 at Westtown School, West Chester, Pa. Established in 1799, this Quaker school presented me during a two-day residency in which several hundred students watched the film, with a robust Q-and-A that followed. The next day, I spoke to individual classes on the Holocaust, genocide, writing and music.

June 24, 2012 at a meeting of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois. Professional and self-styled genealogists converged on Temple Beth Israel, in Skokie, for a screening of “Prisoner of Her Past.” Afterward, participants exchanged ideas and techniques for tracing family history in Eastern Europe; I also shared my methods.

Nov. 7, 2011 at the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival. Timed to coincide with the Philadelphia broadcast of the rx pharmacy film, this screening yielded a surprise: Helen Segall, a retired professor of Russian studies, introduced herself to me as a survivor of Dubno (the town where my mother was born and spent the first years of her life). Later, Prof. Segall sent me her own research on the atrocities committed there.

Nov. 4, 2011 at the annual meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Studies. The world’s foremost gathering of medical professionals dealing in trauma met at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel, with a featured screening of the film. This was followed by a separate session in which the experts analyzed and discussed the documentary. Psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals considered my mother, Sonia Reich, a classic example of delayed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and discussed how this film explored the illness.

Aug. 15, 2011 at the International Conference on Jewish Genealogy. The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Studies, the world’s leading organization on Jewish genealogy, held its annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Washington and featured “Prisoner of Her Past.” After the screening, genealogists quizzed me on how I found records tracing my family’s history and property ownership in Dubno, Poland, as well as documents detailing war crimes that took place there.

Aug. 14, 2011 at the Center for Changing Lives

The Twin Cities premiere of the film played an unconventional setting: The Center for Changing Lives, a venture of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota that provides job training, counseling, financial services, after-school activities, health care screenings and the like. This is precisely the kind of help that my mother and other Holocaust survivors needed after emigrating from Europe to the United States. A wide demographic attended this screening, with post-film discussion moderated by Minnesota Public Radio’s Euan Kerr, in conversation with Randi Markusen of World Without Genocide, Dr. Brian Engdahl from the VA Medical Center, Nancy Beers from Lutheran Social Services, film director Gordon Quinn and me.

April 7, 2011 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. The New York premiere of the film drew a large audience, including some noteworthy figures: critic Stanley Crouch, who wrote a warm column about the film in the New York Daily News; and jazz master Ornette Coleman, whose recording of his most famous work, “Lonely Woman,” is the dominant musical theme of the documentary. During the panel discussion afterward, Dr. Yuval Neria – director of the Trauma and PTSD program at Columbia University – said to me, “You’re lucky to have such a mother.” So true.

— Howard Reich


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