Escape to Freedom

Short Summary

Memoir of a Jewish emigrant who escapes 1930s Poland before the Nazi Invasion and makes his way to the United States where he lives for over 50 years! A story of courage and resilience in the face of obstacles in search of freedom and safety.

Genre: Historical. WW2. Nazi Germany

Period and Setting: 1920s/30s Poland to 1940-Modern day america.

Main Characters

David – Boy born and raised in 1920s Poland. Soft features and demeanour. Screen age – 12 to 70.
Rykel/Rachel – David’s baby sister. Screen age – 6 to 60
Aharon – David’s father Screen age – 32
Lejcia – David’s Mother Screen age – 28
Michel – Italian Salesman. Manipulative, scheming, always running a Money-making hustle. Screen Age – 30 to 70.
Maaya – Tourist on Train. Hare-brained, always in a rush, doesn’t think things through. Screen age – 30-40.
Babshia – Chatty granny on train. Screen age – 95.

Casting Suggestions

David(teen) – ??? (Important)
David (adult) – Ron Danker / Ronen Rubinstein
Rykel (baby) – ??
Rachel (adult) – ?? (Important)
Michel – Michel Morrone
Aharon – Oded Fehr
Lejcia – ??
Maaya – Arti Mann / Freida Pinto (??)

Long Summary

The film opens at Lyon Railway station with a hare-brained Maaya at the crowded Ticket Counter. She is on a backpacking trip through Europe and just found out that the Rail Pass she bought in her home country is not valid for travel to her next destination Milan. Fighting her way to the front, she finally manages to get her ticket and then rushes to board her train.

Boarding her train, she makes her way to her compartment which is occupied by an aged lady in her 90s along with someone who looked like her great-grandson. Maaya is uncomfortable in unfamiliar situations and this was certainly one of those situations. She tries to look away and mind her own business, settling in for the 5 hour journey to Milan.

But granny Babshia is in a very chatty mood and offers a sweet crepe type dish called “Nalesnuki” from her homeland Poland as a conversation opener and initiates a friendly conversation where they get introduced. In the course of the conversation that follows, Maaya talks briefly of her desire to move out of her home country due to the rise of Fascism there which gets the chatty and excitable Babshia really talking while an annoyed Maaya tries to change tracks tactfully. Undeterred, Babshia says “You should never give up hope when it comes to Freedom my child!” (key dialog lines follow). Granny Babshia then begins narrating a story of her friend from her native village of Lodz in Poland. The scenario from this point onwards keeps shifting from that train in the present day back to the story as granny Babshia clarifies various points. Camera pans down to the rolling tracks and Pans back to Railway tracks in 1930s Poland as Babshia begins her narration.

1933 Poland

(Steam train pulling into a Railway station) Hitler has just been appointed Chancellor of Germany and there is some tension within the Jewish community in the small idyllic town of Lodz. Aharon, a small shopkeeper and activist for a local Jewish political party is not unduly worried. A vocal capitalist, Aharon believes the Nazi’s are important to keep the communists out of Poland and maintain the balance of power within Europe. As he returns home however, he finds a large aggressive mob, which includes his Catholic neighbors, awaiting his arrival with violence on their minds. Aharon is violently assaulted in full view of his family which includes his wife Lejcia and his 4 kids including David – the protagonist of the story.

The brutalised family tries to make sense of the situation! Hitler was in another country far away! Their families had lived in Poland next to their Catholic neighbors in harmony for over 5 generations! Why then had the rise of Hitler triggered this unprovoked violence? David’s parents remain optimistic. They keep telling each other and their kids that they would be fine in Poland! Germany was a far away land! Besides, the Germans are a very smart people! Hitler & this Nazi lunacy was just a temporary phase which would be over soon and they would soon be voted out by Germans!

But the incident left a deep impact on 12 year old David – the 2nd of Aharon’s 4 children. His mind is filled with this almost inexplicable foreboding – that some dark evil force had descended upon them! Lejcia tries to calm her disturbed son by telling him her view on “Balance of Life” and how Balance is always restored. (Key scene and Dialogue). David’s school friends, which included both Catholics and Jews, also speak in reassuring voices!

But a certain flame of thought had been lit in David’s mind! He has visions/nightmares of violent mobs descending on their home and brutalising his family! The inner voice that has guided David all his life keeps telling him to Flee the approaching danger to safety!

Run David! Run from the approaching mobs and save yourself!

2 years later, and 4 years before Nazi Germany invades Poland, an Italian insurance salesman called Michel comes to Lodz to sell Insurance and Investment opportunities. He specifically approaches Jewish families and convinces them to invest their savings with him. He warns them of the rise of Nazi’s in Germany and the accompanying wave of violence against Jews across Europe. He reassures them saying that in case Poland gets invaded, their deposits would remain safe with an Italian company, an ally of Nazi Germany! And if anything did happen to them, life insurance policies would ensure their kids could rebuild their lives. This pitch by the suave Michel, using Fear and fake narratives, convinces many local Jews, including Aharon, to invest their life savings with Michel’s company. Aharon tells the kids over dinner that they have nothing to worry anymore because he has invested money in the names of all the kids with Michel, an Italian Insurance salesman from Genoa in Italy.

David sees Michel talk to his father and something about Michel’s demeanour revives that same deep sense of foreboding in young David’s mind! But what could he, a mere 14 year old kid, do? Where would he go? How could he leave his family which seemed to want to stay!

The next day, David’s parents go out to visit relatives and also plan to do some shopping in preparation for a family gathering. David chooses this moment to make his move! David doesn’t know what he is going to do or where he is going to go! An invisible force is guiding his actions! That inner voice was telling him – screaming this time – “RUN AWAY BOY! Escape to safety!”

David packs his belongings and prepares to leave. As he is loading up the single horse cart belonging to his father, he notices his paraplegic 6 year old baby sister Rykel/Rachel, leaning against the door, holding a rag doll and staring blankly back at him! Without really thinking things through, the teenager makes a split second decision to take his baby sister along with him! Young David along with his baby sister then begin an arduous 3 month long journey, posing as orphans, riding on freight trains and doing odd jobs along the way to survive.

They cross 3 countries and finally reach Genoa in Italy – also under Fascist rule at the time. Why does David go to Fascist Italy? The Insurance salesman Michel, had told his father that he was from Genoa. The young and naive David thinks he could get some of the money their parents had invested in their name and use this money to buy passage for him and his sister to America! He never finds Michel. And news of violence against Jews in Poland had reached him, so returning was not possible. So he takes up odd jobs to survive while he waits to find the elusive Michel.

In late 1938, that same deep sense of foreboding comes upon David again – now 17 years old! The visions/nightmares return – That inner voice keeps telling David to get moving again! This time, David doesn’t hesitate! He finds a steamer bound for America and negotiates a deal where he works as deck hand in lieu of lodging & boarding for himself and his sister. The siblings land in Ellis Island off New York in 6 days. Once in America, he finds lodging and work with a Jewish shopkeeper in the Bronx. And just 3 days after the siblings arrival in America, news arrives of Germany invading Poland – World War 2 had begun! David now believes that it was providence that bought him and his sister to safety! David evades conscription and proceeds to rebuild his life in America both for himself and his sister who has now taken the name Rachel. New York becomes their home for next 5 decades! He goes on to become an insurance salesman with his sister by his side throughout! They never find out what happened to their parents or 2 siblings they had left behind till the 1980s! But they had made it to safety!

As Poland opens up again in the late 1980s, the siblings visit their old village in Poland as Tourists. They find that their Parents and siblings had vanished during the Nazi invasion never to be seen or heard again! David and his sister had survived because he listened to his inner voice.

(Present Day – Maaya asks Babshia if David never found Michel? What happened to him?)

The insurance salesman Michel was an unemployed car mechanic from an impoverished part of Italy. The unemployed Michel joins Mussolini’s “Black Shirts” and then uses this influence gained to begin a side business based on taking advantage of feelings of insecurity within the Jewish community to scam them of their life savings! Michel later escapes to America in the confusion following the Italian surrender and manages to find work with an Italian Insurance company doing business in America. This insurance company was heavily involved in moving slush money for the Italian mafia and Michel becomes a key player in the business.

Unknown to David, the elusive Michel stays within 500m of their home in the Bronx for over 10 years! Michel and David eventually meet at work one day in the 50s! David recognises Michel, but does not reveal his identity. David later tells his now grown up sister Rachel about having found the elusive Michel they had been hunting for. David is unable to summon the courage to confront Michel. Rachel convinces him to forgive and move on. But unknown to David, Rachel does meet Michel and ends up becoming his secretary. An unusual romance then begins between Rachel and the much older Michel. Rachel keeps her affair a secret from her protective brother.

David never gets a chance to confront Michel! One day as David is on his way to meet Michel hoping to finally confront him, he witnesses Michel being run over by a speeding Taxi. David hears the cops speculating that the “accident” may actually have been a hit job by the mafia! David is distraught that he never got the opportunity to confront Michel and ask about his Parents. Rachel tells David that justice was done after all – Michel got what he deserved!

Scene cuts back to the present. Babshia has finished her story and there is a moment of silence as a stunned Maaya collects her thoughts. The train slows down as it approaches a mofussil station in Italy. Babshia’s destination has arrived! Her grandson retrieves a wheelchair to help his granny out and at that moment Maaya realises that granny Babshia was perhaps telling her own story all this while! Before taking leave, Babshia turns to Maaya again and says that one should always follow ones heart and never ever give up in the quest for freedom! (key dialogue sequence).

Babshia disembarks and the train starts to pull away! Babshia turns and moves out of the frame.

In a final flashback on closing – It is revealed that the car that ran over Michel that fateful day was driven by Rachel!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *