— By Anat Kuznetzov-Zalmanson
During the Cold War the Iron Curtain was shut, leaving the people of the USSR hidden and isolated from the world. Many wanted to escape from this isolation but their rights and liberty had been taken away. The feature documentary “Next Year In Jerusalem” tells the story of a group of 15 Soviet civilians, mostly Jewish, who in 1970 had the courage to stand up and fight for their freedom. They plotted to charter a plane, throw out the pilots before takeoff, and fly it to Sweden, knowing they faced a huge risk of being captured or shot down. They proceeded in the hopes that this action would give them a platform to inform the world of the conditions behind the Iron Curtain. They were arrested near Leningrad, imprisoned in Siberian work camps and two of them where sentenced to death. However, their message got out and as a direct result of their bravery, world pressure forced the USSR to open its curtain and throughout the 1970’s 163,000 Jews were liberated from the USSR. It started with the action of a few, the few became many, and the echoes of their bravery have reverberated through history. This documentary, directed by the daughter of the group’s leaders, will tell the whole story for the first time.
More after the jump.
This documentary contains interviews with most of the remaining members of the 16 freedom fighters, but focuses mainly on Sylva Zalmanson who was the face of the revolution, and Eduard Kuznetzov, who was the leader of the group and Sylva’s husband at the time.
“Next Year In Jerusalem” tells the courageous story of an ordinary woman who became the face of a revolution. Sylva Zalmanson was raised in Riga, Latvia during the height of Communism. Sylva remembers the atmosphere in Riga and most of the USSR, “was that of fear, lies and hypocrisy. We wanted to get rid of it and live in a free country and we envied everyone who was lucky enough to leave the place.” The words spoken at Passover, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” were written on Sylva’s heart from a young age. She was the only woman tried at the Leningrad trials of 1970, and was the first to take the stand. When the prosecutors tried to bribe her with a reduced sentence in return for a pleas of Amnesty she responded by saying “If you would not deny us our right to leave Russia, this group wouldn’t exist. We would just leave to Israel with no desire of hijacking a plane or any other thing that’s illegal. Even here, on trial, I still believe I’ll make it someday to Israel. I feel I’m the Jewish people’s heiress so I’ll quote our saying “Next Year In Jerusalem” and “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill.”