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Review: Who Do You Think You Are? Episode 3 – Lisa Kudrow

I am still loving the new NBC Series: Who Do You Think You Are?

Episode 3  featured Lisa Kudrow (producer of the series).  Lisa Kudrow’s roots date back to the Holocaust, which means her family connections, like many other Eastern European Jews, have been lost.

Lisa Kudrow interviews her dad, Lee, about their family history.

Lisa Kudrow interviews her dad, Lee, about their family history. Image Copyright 2010 NBC/Universal

Her father, Lee, has been trying to solve one of their family’s mysteries for almost 60 years. What happened to their family during World War II–and what became of a long-lost cousin who survived it? Lisa is on a mission to find out. Her father grew up impoverished in New York and then worked his way up to become a doctor. Lisa believes by trying to find out what happened to her great-grandmother and distant cousin she can find the answers her father has been searching for–as well as find some of her own.

Lisa’s grandmother, Gertrude, immigrated to America in 1921 for a better life. It is her family’s history that Lisa and her father want to research more deeply. Lisa remembers how Gertrude spoke about her mother (Lisa’s great-grandmother) and how Hitler stabbed her in the back with a knife. Lee, Lisa’s father, tells Lisa that he heard a story from a cousin, Yuri Barudin, back in 1947 or 1948. Yuri Barudin just came off of a Polish ship called the Batory when he visited Lee’s family in New York, Lee only being a young boy at the time. Yuri recounted his experience when the Germans came to the Jewish village of Ilya which was located outside the city limits of Minsk, Belarus. Lee remembers Yuri’s tale of seeing Jewish families shot down by the Germans from a wooded area; including Lisa’s great-grandmother. Lisa knows this story has always haunted her father and is determined to find out more about her great-grandmother and Yuri, especially since Lee was told Yuri died long ago.

Photo of Lisa's Grandmother Gertrude

Photo of Lisa's Grandmother Gertrude, Image Copyright 2010 NBC/Universal

Lisa knows that Grandma Gertrude’s mother was Meri Mordejovich. Meri, along with other family members, were murdered during the Holocaust. Lisa travels from Los Angeles to Minsk, Belarus. Here she meets with Tamara Vershitskaya, a researcher of Jewish history. Lisa’s worried that there will be no records, but learns that before World War II the village of Ilya had strong Jewish roots going back hundreds of years. This was drastically changed by the war all across Eastern Europe. According to Tamara, only five percent of the Jewish population were left alive after the Holocaust–10 percent at the most.

Lisa searches the archives in Molodechno and through these documents finds her great-grandmother’s name–which isn’t joyful news. Here, Lisa learns that Meri was killed and burned for being Jewish.

Lisa heads to the village of Ilya to search for answers about her father’s distant cousin, Yuri.

Lisa visits the site of the massacre in the village of Ilya.

Lisa visits the site of the massacre in the village of Ilya. Image Copyright 2010 NBC/Universal

Lisa and Tamara visit a villager, Maria, who lived during the massacre in Ilya. After showing Maria pictures, Lisa learns that she knew Gertrude–they actually went to school together and they were like family. Maria retells the story of when the Germans came to town and recounts the haunting tale of what they did to the Jewish families: looting their homes and burning down their houses. According to Maria, some Jews escaped to the forest and others were collected by the Germans. Maria remembers trying to hide a small girl under her bed, but terrifyingly the girl was found by the Germans and thrown into a fire. Lisa feels the sadness of the history surrounding her as she stands in her Grandmother Gertrude’s yard.

It was called “the selection,” where the Nazis used an ice storage unit in the ground as a mass burial unit for 900 Jewish men, women, children and babies from Ilya. All the Jews that were selected to be killed were ordered to remove their clothes and then they were shot on site, falling directly into the frozen pit. Then, the Nazi soldiers smeared oil on the walls of the building and set it on fire.

Lisa searches for the Polish ship Batory, and finds its manifest. However, the name Yuri Barudin never shows up but another name does: Boleslaw Barudin. Lisa travels to Gdynia, Poland to find the rest of her answers. There she visits the State Archives and is assisted by researcher Krzysztof Dzieciolowski. Lisa discovers that not only did Boleslaw change his name to Yuri, but that he was also married and had a son who was born on May 16th, 1949, right in Gdynia. Lisa, hopeful that Boleslaw’s son is still in Gdynia, uses a phone book to find his name. But what she finds is even better: the name Boleslaw Barudin, the long-lost Yuri from her father’s story. This could mean Boleslaw is still alive and has a family. Lisa makes the phone call and gets in touch with Tomek Barudin (Boleslaw’s grandson)–and finds out that Boleslaw is still alive.

It has been over 60 years since Lisa’s father was visited by his cousin Yuri. Lisa, a little overwhelmed, meets the missing piece in her father’s story and hopes he has the answers she is looking for. Lisa shows Boleslaw pictures of her father and grandmother, and finds out that Andrezj Barudin, Boleslaw’s son, remembers seeing these pictures when his father was in New York. However, unlike Lee remembers, Boleslaw was not a witness to Meri’s family’s murder, but rather had heard the stories from the people around the town. Boleslaw survived when the Russians gave the people in the Polish territories a four-hour window to escape to Siberia. Boleslaw remembers it as being horrible–he joined the Russian army and then moved to the Polish army. He was only 15 years old at the time.

This was a great family history story,  I only wish that the one hour show would’ve given more of the whole story.  There is only about 30 minutes of content in this 60 minute episode.  Twenty minutes is obviously commercials, which is okay of course (even though it is mainly commercials for ancestry.com).   The most irritating thing to my wife and I is before and after the commercial breaks.

Before the commercial break they will give you a “preview” of upcoming scenes and after the break they “recap” everything that you’ve just seen and then show you the “new scenes” that you just saw in the previews before the break!   Drives us crazy!  Please NBC (and other network shows that do the same thing), please, please, STOP!  Just give us more content.  This is a great show.  Show us stuff once.

Updated: September 1, 2011 — 8:29 AM

1 Comment

  1. My father Zusman Gitlitz was there at the slaughter. He was a shoemaker and one of 10 men chosen to live. His first wife and three daughters died that day. They were burned to death.

    More information is available on the following Website. EilatGordonLevitan.com. Click on the Ilya link. In you look at the family portraints you will see one of a man and a woman with the #1927 with Hebrew words. It says Zusman Gitlitz and his wife Dina – 1927. Look at the Yiskor Book link. You can read about what happened to the population of Ilya.. My father wrote the chapter entitled During that Day but his materail is not translated into English on the site but it does contain other eyewittness acounts of what happened.

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