: Documentary
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Completed


A two part film about the legacy of the Holocaust in the Balkans as seen through the eyes of a group of Sephardic Jews from New York with roots in Bulgaria and Greece.

Part 1; A Question of Survival: Three Bulgarian Jews and the Holocaust COMPLETED 

Part 2: A Question of Survival: THE DRESSMAKER  in post-production






A QUESTION OF SURVIVAL: The Dressmaker Part 2

The film follows the story of three generations of women from the Gatenio family from New York, Sephardic Jews with roots both in Bulgaria and Greece, as they grapple with the family’s complex history as told from the perspective of the family's matriarch Stella Gatenio (1925-2020), a natural and colorful storyteller known to her friends and family as the DRESSMAKER.

Stella's sewing machine accompamied her her entire life through attempted deportation, resettlement and immigration.  When in 1944 Stella married Carlo Gatenio, a Jewish man from Drama, Greece the tragedy of the Northern Greek and Macedonian Jews became a permanent part of her personal story as well. 

 “My family is half Bulgarian and half Greek. My mother’s side of the family came from Bulgaria, and my dad’s side came from Greece. Ten years ago I became more aware of what the history between Bulgaria and Greece was during this period of time. On one hand I am very grateful that Bulgaria did save its Jews and that tells my mother's side of story, but my father's side of the story is that under Bulgaria’s occupation of Northern Greece, that was responsible for his family perishing. And how do you reconcile that, and what is the story, that you could live with comfortably.” (Shirley Gatenio)




No artisic statement provided


Elka Nikolova - Director/Producer/Editor

Elka Nikolova was born in Bulgaria and studied psychology at the University of Sofia before she moved to the United States in 1994. In 2000 she received her MA in Media Studies, with a focus on film production, at the New School in New York. She has worked in film and television in New York since 2003. Her first documentary film, "Binka: To Tell a Story About Silence," completed in 2007, premiered at MOMA in New York.  "A Question of Survival" is her second documentary film. 

Vanyo Georgiev - Cinematographer

Vanyo Georgiev was born in Bulgaria and graduated from the New Bulgarian University in Sofia with a BA in film and television production.  He worked as a cinematographer for Bulgarian Documentary Studio "Vreme" and the TV series "8 & 1/2," produced by Film Studio Boyana, before moving to New York in 2006. In New York he works as a freelance DP and Lighting Director for Bank of America Video and Broadcast, and on various documentary productions. 

Ivanka Gezenko - Republic of Bulgaria Archives State Agency, Specialist, Project Advisor

Ivanka Gezenko is an archivist specialising in the archives on the Bulgarian Jewish community, and is a curator of the website http://www.archives.bg/jews at the Republic of Bulgaria Archives State Agency. 

Vadim Altskan - USHMM, Scholar, Project Advisor

Project Director, International Archival Programs, the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Lora Myers - Writing consultant/Mentor

Lora Myers is a writer, film producer, and educator. As a producer and writer, she has worked in the USA, Italy, and Brazil on numerous award winning documentaries, public television specials, and feature film scripts. She is currently developing a song-based app for teaching English literacy.

Joseph Benatov - Historical consultant

Joseph Benatov is Lecturer in Foreign Languages in the Modern Hebrew Language Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He holds a doctorate in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania. His dissertation is titled “Looking in the Iron Mirror: Eastern Europe in the American Imaginary, 1958-2001."


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