Leonid Saharovici lives a quiet life. The 79-year-old retiree has two grown sons and five grandchildren and lives happily with his wife in their Germantown home.
But Saharovici's life wasn't always so pleasant. When World War II broke out, he was a 13-year-old Jewish boy living in Romania.
"The Germans occupied Romania, and my father was taken to a labor camp, leaving me with my mother and grandmother," recalls Saharovici, a soft-spoken man who, despite living over 30 years in Memphis, still speaks with a heavy accent.
Two years later, Saharovici was also forced into a labor camp where he and other children dismantled bombs, gardened, and shoveled snow.
Saharovici's story is one of 14 featured in Transported Lives, a documentary on Holocaust survivors living in Memphis. It is set to premiere on WKNO on October 5th at 8:30 p.m.
The film was an independent project of Lunar Productions, a locally owned company that specializes in videos for corporate marketing. For the past six years, president Mark Wender and senior director Trish Warren interviewed survivors.
"Most people in Memphis don't know that there are people who survived the Holocaust living in our community," says Wender. "In 10 or 20 years, all the survivors will be gone, so we wanted to have something permanent to tell their stories."
The film follows a chronological format, starting with people remembering their lives before the war and ending with their living in Memphis.
"Many of them hadn't talked about the Holocaust in years. Some hadn't even told their children," says Warren. "But by the time they got to us, they were ready."
Most of the interviews were arranged through Saharovici. After moving to Memphis from Romania in 1972, Saharovici formed the Baron Hirsch Holocaust Memorial Organization, a network of local survivors focused on Holocaust education and outreach. In 1982, the group had 40 survivors. Today, only 13 of the original members are left. However, there are other Holocaust survivors living in Memphis who are not a part of the group.
"We want to educate people in Memphis and elsewhere about the Holocaust," says Wender. "Ultimately, we'd like all the schools and churches to have copies of the film, so when they teach the Holocaust, they'll have something authentic."