Garri Urban was a survivor – not a victim – of both the Holocaust and Gulag. Born in the shtetl (the Jewish rural community) in 1916, he overcame adversity through a mixture of charm, aggression, and chutzpah. His 1980 autobiographical account of his adventures took its title from when he was shot during his attempt to swim across an icy river from Soviet-held territory to Romania. He told the snipers who stooped to lift his apparently lifeless body; “no, tovarisch (comrade), I’m not dead” before striking their officer.
In 1992 his son, film-maker Stuart Urban, follows Garri into the former Soviet Union as soon as Communism disintegrates.
The video diaries that were made over a 14 year quest into Garri’s KGB records and the fate of his family in the Holocaust, plus extensive 16mm Kodachrome home movies from the 1950s onwards, form the core of the film, by two-time British Academy award winning director Stuart.