The Jewish Eye: Film Review of The Kalusz I Thought I Knew

The Jewish Eye
The Kalusz I Thought I Knew The Kalusz I Thought I Knew A Film by Bernard Dichek, 2013 Written by Bernard Dichek and Yana Lerner Runtime: 28 Minutes Language: English, and Ukrainian with English subtitles Distributed by Ruth Diskin Ltd.

Reviewed by Anna Dogole – April 28, 2014

What is memory? Can you have memories of a place you’ve never been to before? Memories that feel as if they are really yours, yet are only based upon the stories and feelings that you gathered from those around you? Bernard Dichek tackles these questions in the short film entitled The Kalusz I Thought I Knew. Dichek’s father was born into a large Jewish family that lived in Kalusz before World War II. By wars end, Dichek’s father was the only member of the family to have survived the Holocaust. His father married another Kalusz survivor. They moved to Canada and never to return to Kalusz. However, the stories of Kalusz that Dichek learned from his father made him feel as if he had been to Kalusz and had a solid connection to the town.

When Dichek’s parents lived in Kalusz, the town was located in Poland. Now, with borders redrawn, it is located in Ukraine. So it is to the Ukraine that Dichek travels to revisit the childhood home he never lived in, but to which he felt a strong connection. This film documents Dichek’s journey as he strives to revisit his father’s ancestral home, to meet the family that helped to save both of his parents, and to follow the trail of death along which his family members perished.

To achieve his goals, Dichek enlists the aid of a gun packing Rabbi and a young Jewish woman who teaches English. Using an old map, they try to find his father’s house, but when that fails Dichek and the English teacher interview several elderly residents whom, they hope, may know something about his parents. Along the way they learn a bit about how modern Ukrainians view their former Jewish neighbors, and perhaps how they view the few remaining Jews in the area. 

The Kalusz I Thought I Knew is a short film (just shy of half an hour), but in this short time it provokes many feelings from sadness about the violent deaths that many Jews from Kalusz suffered at the hands of the Nazi’s, to the joy felt as Dichek rediscovers a true connection between his father, Kalusz, himself, and shared memories…






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