WE ARE HERE - is an important documentary film that looks at the complex and fragile Polish-Jewish relationship through the eyes of five Jews living in Poland today.

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In 1945, 95% of the Jews in Poland are murdered during the Holocaust. In 2013 a Jewish museum is erected. It's a new Poland. A new conversation has begun.

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  • Produced in association with the Documentary Channel

Poland is a cemetery of Jewish people.

Messages from the Director

My Family's Story

For so long, I never thought about going to Poland. I was born in Canada to a Polish Jewish father and Scottish/Polish Jewish mother. I grew up with this idea that Poland was not a place that welcomed Jews. We lost so many. What once was a big extended family became a very small one.

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You are not allowed to forget.
If a person forgets his past, he ignores his heritage


More than 3 million Jews lived in Poland in 1939. It was the largest Jewish population in the world. A third of Warsaw was Jewish. Jews and Poles co-existed for one thousand years.

Over 90% of total Jewish population was murdered during the Second World War.

After 1945 most of those who survived emigrated from Poland.

Then again during communism, the Jews were expelled in what was called the Polish 1968 political crisis.

The small community of Jews who still stayed in Poland hid their Jewish identity until the Solidarity movement (Solidarnosc) which led to free elections in 1989 and culminated in the Revolution of 1989 and that ended Communist rule in Poland. Many Jews began to re-claim their Jewish roots now in a free and open society but many still had the fear of Anti-Semitism so deeply ingrained in their psyche that they continue to hide their Jewish identity even today.

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews opens this year on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto - a monumental achievement. It presents the history of Polish Jews and the life they created over the course of almost 1000 years.

Further Reading 

The Jews have had a long history in Poland. Click on the years to see dramatic changes brought on by WWII.

Population of Jews in Poland:
Pre-WWII Poland had the largest concentration of Jews in Europe

Population of Jews in Poland:
Jews make up 31% of Polish population

Population of Jews in Poland:
Mass extermination of Jews in Poland

Population of Jews in Poland:
Many surviving Jews leave Poland

Population of Jews in Poland:
On Stalin's death, thousands of Jews emigrate to Israel

Population of Jews in Poland:
9,000 1967-1971 under economic, political and secret police pressure,
over 14,000 Polish Jews were forced to leave Poland and relinquish their Polish citizenship.

Population of Jews in Poland:
The Jewish population continues to decline

Population of Jews in Poland:
Jewish population in Poland is at its lowest in thousands of years

Population of Jews in Poland:
Re-establishment of Jewish communities in major Polish cities

Population of Jews in Poland:
Jews continue to repatriate and the population is growing

Population of Jews in Poland:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews open on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto

Because of these papers, I lived.

About The Project

We Are Here - Conversations extends the experience of the film by examining the relationships between hypothetical neighbours - past and present - from both a Polish Jewish and the Polish Catholic background. The intention of We Are Here - Conversations is to continue the dialogue that arises out of the core concepts of the film. It will further explore the fragile, shaky rebirth of Polish Jewish life in the shadow of the Holocaust and put into practice the question "Can we progress from a country containing the unmarked graves of three million, to one which now celebrates life?"

We Are Here: Conversations aims to continue this important dialogue.

Francine Zuckerman (Producer/Director/Writer)

Francine Zuckerman's company Z FILMS INC. has produced a wide range of films and television programs with an emphasis on adaptation from fiction and theatre, social documentary and performing arts. As producer and director, Zuckerman has won numerous awards and her work has been recognized at film festivals around the world.

Zuckerman's first film, the award winning co-production with the NFB, Half the Kingdom, is a documentary about women and Judaism broadcast on TVO, SBS, Channel 4 and screened at international films around the world. Other projects include: Exposure: environmental links to breast cancer, a documentary hosted by singer/actor Olivia Newton-John and broadcast on CBC; Punch Me in the Stomach, starring Deb Filler, a Canada - New Zealand co-production, in association with CBC and TV3 with support from OMDC and New Zealand on Air; Passengers, a short film broadcast on CBC, Showcase and the W Network, screened at film festivals around the world and launched at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Gemini nominated dramatic anthology TV series, The Atwood Stories based on the short stories of renowned Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

Most recently, Z films produced a short film for Bravo television, Ladies and Gentlemen: Biddie Schitzerman, starring Deb Filler as eighty-year-old legendary performer as Biddie Schitzerman, which launched at the Vancouver International Film Festival and was at at the Palm Springs Short Fest last year.

Zuckerman is a member of the Independent Film Project, New York; Directors Guild of Canada; has served as a jury member for the Ontario Arts Council, Media Arts Program; a jury member for the Don Haig Award at Hot Docs; a jury chair for a Gemini Awards at The Academy of Film and Television and is one of the founding members of Femmes du Cinema de la Télévision et la Vidéo a Montréal.

With connections to the UK, Poland, New Zealand and Israel, Z FILMS inc's new films are international in scope. In addition to their new documentary film about the renaissance of Jewish life in Poland entitled, We Are Here (aka I Miss You Jew), their projects in development include: a feature film based on Margaret Atwood's novel The Edible Woman with Toronto based Markham Street Films; a project with well known UK psychotherapist Susie Orbach and a short film set in New Zealand about famous composer, Leonard Bernstein.

Deb Filler (Associate Producer)

Deb Filler has been an actor, standup comic and writer and producer for nearly thirty years. She has worked internationally onstage, film, television and in print. In 1992 she developed the tragi-comic-bio-drama Punch Me In the Stomach, off Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop after being workshopped at La Mama e.t.c. The show has continued to tour throughout the world for several years to critical acclaim.

In 1996 Filler teamed up with film director Francine Zuckerman and together they produced Punch Me In the Stomach and made it into a critically acclaimed feature film, which screened on PBS and CBC, BRAVO and TV3 NZ.

She is also a long time guest teacher in the theatre department at Brown University and has been teaching at Humber College. 

As a writer/performer/ producer Deb's most recent solo play Filler Up! has had sold-out runs in Edinburgh, London, Toronto, Auckland, Berlin, Montreal, Sydney, Baltimore and Washington D.C. Filler was nominated for a Helen Hayes (Washington D.C. theatre) award for outstanding actress.

Deb Filler again teamed up with Zuckerman and co-authored, co-produced and performed in, Trip, a seven-character short film BravoFACT in which she plays six of the seven characters. More recently she and Zuckerman produced, Ladies and Gentlemen: Biddie Schitzerman. Amongst other films, Deb has also appeared alongside Harvey Keitel in the ABC two-part mini-series The Path to 9/11.

Filler is currently producing and developing a new solo performance My German Roots Are Showing.

In addition to associate producing We are Here aka I Miss You Jew with Zuckerman, they are also developing a new short film written by Filler about her chance encounter with world renowned Leonard Bernstein called Mr. Bernstein.

Michele Francis (Editor)

After spending two years in Japan, Michele Francis moved to the U.K. to earn a Post Graduate Diploma in Film and Television Studies from the University of Bristol. She then worked in London, England, as a Researcher, Assistant Editor and Editor on various feature films, shorts, and Television series. Once back in Canada, she worked with such directors as Atom Egoyan, Lynne Stopkewich and Norma Bailey among others.

Francis cut the award winning feature film A Winter Tale and Kardia as well as a number of quality television dramas and feature documentaries including The Atwood Stories, The Shields Stories, Sun Dogs, The Lost Tomb of Jesus and Citadel among others.

She has cut reality series for the Food Network including Fink and David Adjey's Restaurant 101, Assault and Rescue for Discovery Canada and one hours' series, Natural Born Dealers for Discovery Canada Redemption for CBC. Francis also directed the award winning short film Undo in 2005.

Francis and Zuckerman collaborated on The Atwood Stories, Making the Cut, Urban Creatures and most recently on the short film, Ladies and Gentlemen: Biddie Schitzerman.

Tom Third (Composer)

Tom Third has worked as a professional composer for 20 years. He studied film and new media at The Ontario College of Art and Design, and his work in experimental film, performance and audio led to collaboration with Meryn Cadell on the cult AM radio hit The Sweater. In 1991 he signed an international recording deal with Nettwerk Records that has yielded three critically acclaimed electronica CDs, Transcontinental Weekend (1992), Primordia (1994) and Continuous City (2001).

As a film composer, Third's music employs an innovative combination of traditional instruments with electronic and digitally manipulated sounds. He co-wrote songs sung by Gary Busey and rapper Ice-T for the feature Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang in 1999, and then scored the feature 4 Days starring Colm Meaney the same year. An ongoing commitment to the short and experimental film community has resulted in many soundtracks for award winning films and installations that have been shown at film festivals and art galleries worldwide. Tom also has a long tradition working in documentary film, including a 10 year relationship with the CBC's The Nature of Things.

In 2000, Third began work in dramatic episodic television with the Showtime series Queer as Folk, and won the MPSE Golden Reel award for music editing. This was followed by the cutting edge electronica score for the series Regensis. With 52 episodes completed, this highly acclaimed, award-winning drama produced by Shaftesbury Films in Toronto is now seen worldwide. The music for ReGenesis was nominated for a 2006 Gemini Award for Best Original Music Score for a Dramatic Series, an MPSE Golden Reel Award for Best Music Editing, and another Gemini nomination in 2007. Other recent assignments include the multi-award winning drama, Durham County for HBO Canada, The Summit miniseries, which was a 2010 Gemini Award winner for best original score, and The Listener, a new series for FOX and CTV, that has been released in 180 territories.

In 2004 Third won the Volkswagen Score Competition sponsored by the Berlin Film Festival, and juried by Walter Murch, David Holmes, and Martin Steyer. Tom has also created countless commercials and broadcast identities for clients including Coke, Nike, Levis, General Motors, General Mills, Warner Lambert, The Sundance Channel, Astral Media, The Family Channel, CBC, CTV, YTV, TVO and many others.

Anthea Foyer (Digital Project Leader)

Anthea Foyer is Head Squid & Creative Director at Red Squid Lab. RSL is a creative production company that makes beautiful things using technology, compelling narratives across platforms, and starts conversations between strangers & friends - on and offline. RSL specializes in transmedia, multiplatform, and participatory projects and is always open to new ideas, projects and experiences. Anthea founded Red Squid Lab in 2012.

She currently also holds the position of Digital Community Engagement Specialist for the Culture Division, City of Mississauga. She can often be found speaking, mentoring and presenting workshops about the continually evolving realm of digital media, with a focus on interactive narrative and the creative convergence of a variety of media forms. This includes SXSW, NXNE, IN, World Wide Short Film Festival, and the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

About The Film

Meet Ania, a young woman celebrating her newly discovered Jewish identity, dedicated to building her life in Warsaw. Meet Henryk, at ninety-seven he is one of two survivors in a small town that was once half Jewish. Meet Leslaw, he had to come out twice, as Jewish and as gay. Meet Larysa, who came out as a Jew in her forties and is haunted by the death that surrounds her. Meet Irena, a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto who lost her entire family and for fifty years chose to live her life as a non-Jew.
We Are Here is about how a country, a people, a community and individual families are impacted by the events of World War II.
This groundbreaking new film excavates the fragile, shaky rebirth of Polish Jewish life in the shadow of the Holocaust.

Ania Ciszewska a burlesque dancer and teacher embraced her Jewish identity as a teenager and became the face of  young Jewish Poland on a huge billboard towering above the city of Warsaw. 

Henryk Prajs, a nearly hundred year old survivor is one of only two Jews left in the small town of Gora Kalwaria, a city that was once a vibrant Jewish centre.

Leslaw Piszewski had to come out of the closet twice, first as a Jew and then as gay. Which is more threatening?

Larysa Merunowicz discovered she was Jewish in her forties. Excited to embrace her newfound community, she became an active member of this new community but the idea that Poland is a cemetery of the Jews still haunts her.

Irena Likierman survived the Warsaw Ghetto but lost her entire family. She chose to stay in Warsaw, a city that was once a third Jewish, however she changed her name and for fifty years, hid her Jewish identity.

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