I once met an older woman once a week to help her practice her English. She lived most of her life through the Communist era in Czechoslovakia, liked to cook for guests and was committed to learning English. She didn’t often speak about the past, and when she did it was with a grave reticence. Vienna’s Lost Daughters now live in New York City and witnessed Nazi atrocity firsthand as children, before their parents sent them from Vienna on the eve of the War to the safety of England or America. This documentary, a series of conversations with these eight survivors, honors their stories.
These Jewish women have settled into cozy domesticity, engaged in such activities as tennis, yoga, baking sachertorte and listening to Vienneselieder, often in the company of children and grandchildren, the most probable source of their peace and contentment. They speak with pride about how fast they learned English when they first arrived in England or America, and the sacrifices their parents made for them. They like New York City, but consider Vienna their home — although one woman says, “[Vienna] is the home that threw you out.”
However, they are quieter about those traumatic experiences that led their parents to send them to the relative safety of an unknown country, a selfless and painful event many of the women seem to remember with clarity. Sometimes this discomfort is reflected in their preference of English to German, or New York to Vienna. At other times the children have to speak for their mothers, since the memories these women leave unspoken are like scars that have never fully healed, as one woman describes it. Anyone who has spent quality time with the elderly, listening to them recount what a long life has taught them, will appreciate this film.