In the middle of the steppes of Kherson region lies a railway station called Kalinindorf. In 1927 the «all-Union elder» Mikhail Kalinin came here to establish the Jewish national district. To honor this event the inhabitants of Velyka Seidemenukha renamed their village to Kalinindorf.
In 1924 Soviet government launched a campaign for resettlement of the Jews to the steppes of Southern Ukraine. Restoration of Yiddish language and the new proletarian philosophy were in the limelight of the Ukrainian Jewish kolkhozes which got ideological names. In the steppes between the Dnipro and Kherson, as well as in the north of the Crimean peninsula five Jewish national districts were created, employing more than 100,000 Jews.
On August 27, 1941, Kalinindorf was occupied by the German army. Right afterwards, the Nazis began executing Jews who didn’t manage to evacuate.
Today Kalinindorf has a neutral name Kalynivske. Only ruins of the ancient synagogue remind us of Jewish collective farms. As well as the director of the local museum, who keeps preserving the history of these lands.
The film tells the story of the Jewish resettlement movement to the steppes of Southern Ukraine. The focus is on Kalynivske village, which lies today in Kherson region. During 1927–1944, it was the center of the first Jewish national district and was called Kalinindorf. During their expedition the film directors met with the inhabitants of former Jewish settlements to find out how the history of these lands has been kept to this day. The plot of the film touches the topic of common history and Ukrainian-Jewish relations against the background of the Soviet era. The circumstances under which the Jewish population was exterminated during World War II and the Holocaust are highlighted. The discussion of commemorative practices and the need to rethink these historical events today is considered.
Yurii Kaparulin — historian, PhD, professor at the State University of Kherson, head of the Raphael Lemkin Center for Genocide Studies. He has been researching the history of Jewish agricultural settlements in southern Ukraine for the past five years.
Les Kasyanov is a photographer and filmmaker who has been working with the French historical organization Yahad—In Unum since 2011 collecting evidences about the Holocaust.