Goodbye Leningrad


A little girl I am whisked away. All together, Mama, Papa and Babushka (grandma) board a plane to who knows where. We all land safely, on some ground. I ask “Is this where we are moving to?”

         “No, dear not yet, this is where we wait.” I am told.

          Wait?  Alright then, it is a lovely place. Near the beach we stay with Senora Maria. They don’t speak my language here, I quickly realize.  They speak Italian, we are in Lodispoli, somewhere south of Rome, Mama tells me.  There are children there and they are friendly, we play outside, mostly on the beach and I learn “ciao” and many new words as I play each day.  I understand them soon enough and they laugh when I say something funny in Italian but they help me and I learn.

          Three months fly by and the wait is over, we must board another plane. Babushka is tired and somewhat ill; she seems scared as mama and papa explain that we have the “Visa’s” whatever those are, but they are happy so I know it must be a good thing. As the plane lands safely once again I ask “Is this where we are going to live?”  Mama says yes while busy making sure our parcels are all there.

          There are very few parcels, and I was only allowed to bring my favorite doll, just one.  I left the rest behind with my best friend, Katya. She seemed happy but still cried that morning when we left.  She knew we would not see each other again; she was older than I and much cleverer.

          So there we are in a very busy airport once again, waiting.  Suddenly I am whisked into the arms of a beautiful young girl.  She hugs me as black tears rush down her face.  Mama is confused but I know this girl, it is Marina my only cousin.   Mama is shocked she has grown so much, a woman she is and they hug and cry.  Bella and George my Totya (aunt) and Dadya (uncle) are there too.  Everyone is crying, but not me, it’s too exciting with all the commotion.

           I hold Babushkas hand as we walk through “JFK” and it is a long walk for her.  She is tired, very tired and I want to leave this place with all the strange people speaking another language I don’t understand.  Marina speaks it well and I laugh when I learn my first word, “OK”.  Everything is “ok” as we get into the van with our parcels and everyone in the van together.  Mama and Bella keep crying and laughing, they act strange and nervous but I am OK.  We are on our way to our new house, it is May 10, 1979 and it is hotter than I have ever felt before.

Copyright ©2008 Veronica Romm

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An American Crime


Trailer of An American Crime

Unable to sleep I came across the film An American Crime. I read the brief information provided and learned the stars were Catherine Keener and Ellen Page so I decided to watch. I had never heard of the production or the true story of Sylvia Likens (Page) and what was considered the most horrible documented crime on an individual in the history of Indianapolis.

I watched with a knot in my stomach that just kept twisting as the film became more macabre, vicious and frightening, it was almost unbelievable. Unfortunately what I was watching was true and extremely tame compared to the actual crimes perpetrated on Sylvia by Gertrude Baniszewski (Keener). The film inter-cut between the courtroom testimony of the other five children and Sylvia’s own sister who were being cared for by “Gertie.” What I saw was so difficult that this is not going to be a film review at this time, but my reaction.

As soon as the film was over I googled the story and found myself reading various newspaper and journal articles. I wanted an answer as to how this could happen? I also wanted to know what the value was in making such a horrific, terrifying film? Only one conclusion made sense and both stars echoed the sentiment that her story needed to be told. Perhaps because it is so disturbing, it may make someone do something if ever they suspect that abuse is going on. Finally to remind people that Sylvia is just one precious life struck down by cruel, mentally unfit adults, scared children and seriously flawed judgement by so many others who could have, with one word saved this girls life.

No one said a thing as screams emanated from that house. Children told parents who either did not believe it or somehow ignored it for whatever reason. And neighbors, who heard just stayed to themselves. This is the crime which boils my blood as much as the torture Sylvia endured and that is the stark reality with which people live.

Ellen Page’s performance is heartbreaking and I wonder how one might be mentally able to sustain work in such a role.  I can’t imagine it not being something that will haunt her on some level.  Keener, although played with restraint is demonic, depraved, desperate and cruel.  In reconciling whether to do the film (which she originally refused) she finally decided that as a mother she had to. 

While we were laughing it up and watching Juno, Page was making a film quite different, important and controversial.  This is not for everyone.  It is a true crime story played out in gruesome fashion.  Yet for the Sylvia’s who lived and died this way perhaps it should be seen and discussed. 

 Copyright ©2008 Veronica Romm

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