(clockwise: Israel Geller, Ellen Geller, Malcia Geller, Marty Geller)
I always knew that my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Even as I child, I heard my mother’s stories of how my grandparents survived WWII by hiding in the forest, living on nothing but potato skins. My grandparents emigrated to the US from Poland after the war and worked as sweat shop workers to provide my mother and uncle with the simple life that they could afford.
But in my eyes, my grandparents did not represent the stereotypical image of “Holocaust survivors.” At the time all I knew of were the Bubbis and Zeidis (Yiddish for grandmothers and grandfathers) that would speak at my Yeshivah on the annual Holocaust Memorial day. They had numbers tattooed across their arms and told outstanding stories of their depravity in the concentration camps and their even more outstanding survival. I knew how I would shield my eyes from the slide shows of graphic stock footage and photographs of bodies piled up in a ditch. However, from what I knew, my grandparents were none of these things. They had never spoken to me about their lives during the Holocaust and had barely a picture to show of their lives before the war. My grandfather passed away in 1997, and my grandmother followed in 1999.
(left to right: Jacob Kamaras, Sarah Kamaras, Malcia Geller, Israel Geller)
Some might say that this project is about 15 years too late. However, I believe that now is the perfect time for this project to come to fruition. I knew my grandparents for the strong, genuine and caring individuals that they were. I am now ready to learn how they came to be that way. With this documentary, I hope to amass story upon story to build up an image of what my grandparents lives were like in their hometown Podkamien pre-WWII. I hope to capture the strength and persistence it took to survive years in the ghetto and in the woods. I hope to learn even the simplest anecdote about my grandparents – as Podkamieners, as individuals and as Jews.
This documentary is not just about my grandparents – it is about my family as a whole. My family is a tight group that thrives from the remnants of Podkamien, a small town that was left with barely 100 Jews after the war. They are the few that have survived and have now multiplied across the world.
I would like to thank my uncle, Marty, for inspiring and supporting this wonderful project as well as my mother, Ellen, for all of her historical insight. I invite you to come along this journey with us as we delve into my family’s story.