Lives: Catholic Sisters Under European Communism
Currently in production at NGM is a one-hour broadcast documentary,
Interrupted Lives: Catholic Sisters Under European Communism,
set for completion in 2009.
The program features interviews with Catholic Sisters who lived
under Soviet governments and their religious oppression after
World War 2 in five Eastern European countries-- Lithuania, Romania,
Slovakia, Hungary and the Ukraine. All Christian believers and
Catholics—bishops, priests, Sisters and laypeople—suffered
religious discrimination and persecution by the Soviets, but this
program looks specifically at the experiences of religious Sisters.
The stories of Roman Catholic as well as Eastern Rite Catholic
Sisters will be featured.
The “survivors” are now in the 70s-to-90s-age range
(much like the survivors of the Jewish Holocaust) and lived through
various attempts of the Communist regimes to suppress religion
and religious expression. These included harsh imprisonment; physical,
mental and emotional torture; exile to Siberia and other remote
locations; house imprisonment in “concentration convents;”
enforced labor in factories or on collectivized state farms; midnight
arrests and deportations from convents and motherhouses; seizure
of Catholic schools, hospitals and institutions; the complete
suppression of religious orders and a ban on wearing religious
habits and veils.
This period of suppression lasted almost 40 years—from
1948 to 1989—finally ending with the fall of the Berlin
Wall and the collapse of Communism across Eastern Europe.
NGM crews have made two location shooting trips to Eastern Europe
and have collected about 60 interviews with Sisters who lived
through this period. Shooting has taken place in prisons, concentration
convents, confiscated schools and hospitals, monks’ monasteries
where Sisters were rounded up and held; houses and apartments
where Sisters met secretly in defiance of the police and informers;
and in chapels and convents, now restored to the Sisters’
Shooting has been done in and around Warsaw, Poland; Budapest,
Hungary; Bratislava and Trnava, Slovakia; Cluj and Bucharest,
Romania; and L’viv, Ukraine. Additional US shooting and
interviews are also underway.
Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF, is writing and producing the program;
Doug Thomas is directing dramatic sequences; Lynn King serves
as director of photography; and David Grove is providing audio/
technical support. Larry Bilinski will edit the program.
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