FROM BERLIN TO TOMSK
Retracing the journey of a Gastarbeiter in Siberia in the 1930s


Documentary film project (work in progress / release due 2019)
- research, film+photography, writing -

Tracing her grandfather's time in 1930s Siberia,
the filmmaker uncovers details about an unknown chapter
of the history of the USSR and her family.
FROM BERLIN TO TOMSK includes rare historical footage
of the first Soviet Five-year plan.

Watch the 5-minute film


Find the TRAVEL BLOG accompanying the project HERE


SYNOPSIS
Pictures in the family album of the expat years in Siberia, 1931-1934,
are not as innocent as they appear at first glance.
Since her mother left her the treasured album, the filmmaker has
started to trace the footsteps of her grandfather working in Tomsk
and Novosibirsk as one of hundreds of so-called foreign specialists.
Engineers and skilled workers from the USA, Germany, the UK and
other countries, who were affected by high unemployment,
were desperately needed to build the new heavy industry centres
of the young Soviet Union.
Maybe the major project was the 'Great Kuzbass' coal basin and
steel works in Western Siberia. Photographs of a family outing that
included happily drinking tea in a canteen, turned out to be an
organised visit to a youth correctional facility or labour camp.
The German engineers afterwards commented on this institution
positively in the local paper, the Red Flag. The foreigners were
watched closely by the secret police and the Party apparatus tried
to involve them in political work.
This film investigates what everyday life looked like for these men and
their families, what role they played in the economic history
of the USSR, their fate during the Stalinist repressions and
what traces might be left of them or their contribution today.
Foreign specialists during the 1930s is a topic that has barely
been researched and it taps into an active and widespread
interest in family histories in Tomsk, which the film reflects
by the many protagonists who are interviewed and people
who support this project. It also ties in with current discourses
around labour migration.