An invaluable record of tight-knit communities that endured genocide and shifting political regimes, Shtetlers offers a glimpse at the small Jewish towns (“shtetls”) dotting the former Soviet Union—towns where for many years Yiddish continued to be spoken and ancient rituals dutifully observed. Located on the fringes of the territory, in what are now Ukraine and Moldova, these villages that withstood the Holocaust managed to abide by supplying non-Jewish neighboring towns with goods and services. Director Katya Ustinova examines nine former shtetl inhabitants, now spread out across the world, and solicits their memories of a resilient but ultimately vanishing way of life. Ustinova’s documentary serves as an elegy for these once numerous strongholds of tradition and culture, but also, by archiving the recollections of those who experienced them firsthand, preserves them.
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