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Eran Plotnik and Serena Dykman
The Winnipeg International Jewish Film Festival just completed another great year. Known for its great roster of Jewish-themed and Israeli movies, this edition of the festival included more than 21 movies from around the world. This year, though, the festival also included an emotional meeting between descendants of Holocaust survivors who had been old friends before the war: Winnipegger Eran Plotnik and Serena Dykman, the director of “NANA”, one of the films featured in the festival.

Plotnik, who was born in Israel, belonged to a Facebook group of descendants of Holocaust survivors of the Polish town of Bedzin, where his mother and Dykman’s grandmother who was the protagonist of her film, “NANA”, were born and grew up together.
In September of 2017, Plotnik who is part of the Human Rights and Holocaust Studies Program at Sturgeon Heights Collegiate, posted an old picture of a group of friends dating from just before World War II. The picture was of a group of members of the Gordonia youth movement in Bedzin.
“In the picture, the people I knew were my mother, my uncle who married my mother’s sister, and a friend. Out of the six people in the photo I knew three,” Plotnik says “My question to the group was : ‘Does anyone recognize anyone else?’. It’s a common thing. There are Facebook groups for descendants of hundreds of towns. ‘My father was a friend of your mother,’ that kind of thing. It’s a way for second, third generations to connect.”

Soon Plotnik received a reply from a young woman based in New York: “Hi Eran, my name is Serena Dykman, I am the granddaughter of Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant, born and raised in Bedzin. My grandmother survived the camps, and I just made a movie about her. I randomly came across the picture you posted and recognized my grandmother’s brother, Israel Dyamant ! I’ve never seen this picture of him….Could you tell me more about the picture ? Thank you !”
Israel Dyamant was deported to Auschwitz, and never came back. “NANA”, Dykman’s film, a documentary of her Holocaust survivor grandmother’s story, involved an inordinate amount of archival footage, but, she says, “In all of my research I had never seen that photo of Israel Dyamant. I showed it to my mother [Maryla’s daughter] and she had never seen it.”
Plotnik and Dykman began corresponding soon after, sharing stories they heard from their mothers about their relatives’ time and life in Poland

Their new friendship culminated in a face to face meeting in Winnipeg when Dykman came to present her film at the festival. It was a moment both of them will also remember, surrounded by Plotnik’s family and friends who seemed to immediately make Dykman an honorary member of Winnipeg’s community.
Dykman’s film is a fascinating first feature work by a young director. It’s an intensely personal film, made from the third generation’s point-of-view, investigating how survivors’ testimonies and the message against intolerance can continue in a world where survivors are disappearing and intolerance, prejudice, antisemitism and racism are on the rise.

Both Dykman and Plotnik are dedicating themselves to carrying on the history of their relatives for next generations.
“Technology has done a fabulous service for anyone tracing, looking, preserving, and reconnecting,” says Plotnik. But Facebook pages such as the one the two found each other on, dedicated to survivors of a lost town or region, also serve to create memories and museums of Jewish life of a place.

“Like the Incas, [Jewish] communities that existed for centuries and centuries just disappeared. It’s important to say we lived here for hundreds of years and highly impacted these communities.”