Mordechai Perlov

Documentary Film / Survivor Story

"Because of Stalin"

A documentary film by Johnathan Andrews.

Because of Stalin is a personal story of tragic losses in the Gulag camps, escapes, deceit and a journey to freedom.

Mordechai Perlov (93 year old living in Johannesburg, South Africa) is a Lithuanian Jew who was deported 14 June 1941 from Raseiniai, Lithuania, to Ust'-Lokchim in the Komi Republic (USSR), by the NKVD.

Mordechai, his family and other Lithuanians who were considered as enemies of the Soviet state were taken as prisoners to chop trees in various labour camps in the Komi Republic. The living conditions there were inhumane, with temperatures in winter dropping to minus 40 degrees. He was 15 years old at the time and decided that he would rather "escape this hell, than to die."

Mordechai tells the story of his journey and his attempts to reunite his family, his steps and his resilience to get back a life. This took him through Northern USSR, Poland, Ukraine, Italy, Cyprus, Israel and eventually South Africa, where he became a successful businessman.

The story of Mordechai Perlov is a story of the tragic violation of innocent people's human rights under the communist regime of Stalin, and is an example to us of a man who found meaning and purpose in life despite near indescribable hardships and trauma.

The film is made in proud association with:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and The Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania to the Republic of South Africa.

Lithuania Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Lithuania Embassy in South Africa

Film Premiere Events

A number of film premiere events are planned as follows:

  • Pretoria, South Africa ... TBC ... Brooklyn Nouveau
  • Johannesburg, South Africa ... TBC ... Rosebank Nouveau
  • Cape Town, South Africa ... TBC ... V&A Nouveau
  • Durban, South Africa ... TBC ... Gateway Commercial
  • Vilnius, Lithuania ... details TBC

About The Movie Poster Artwork And Film Title

The ambiguity of the title “Because of Stalin” reflects the true complexity of Mordechai's story, from the nationalization of assets in 1939-40, to the arrest and deportation, to the camps in the gulag and to his decision to escape twice to get a life back.

The descriptive text at the top of the poster: “PERSONAL STORY OF TRAGIC LOSSES IN THE GULAG CAMPS – ESCAPES, DECEIT AND JOURNEY TO FREEDOM – SURVIVOR TESTIMONY 1939-1947” integrates the title providing the concept of Mordechai's personal experiences and struggle to survive.

The yellow symbol was created instead of using the Soviet symbol - the use of which has been banned in the Baltic States and other countries in Europe – * Lithuanian ban on Soviet symbols. Lithuania's parliament has passed restrictions on the public display of Soviet and Nazi symbols. It will now be an offence in the Baltic state to display the images of Soviet and Nazi leaders. This includes flags, emblems and badges carrying insignia, such as the hammer and sickle or swastika. The new law also prohibits the Nazi and Soviet national anthems but does not specify if this extends to the modern-day Russian national anthem. Moscow's official interpretation of history is that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were liberated from Nazi Germany by, then voluntarily joined, the Soviet Union. This account is rejected by those three Baltic States and most other European nations, says our correspondent. They believe the Soviet Union illegally occupied the Baltic republics as a result of a secret agreement - the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact - between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. * See article on BBC NEWS, 17 June 2008.

The cross symbol is the artwork of two pieces of wood which links to the narrative of the labour to chop trees that Mordechai was forced to perform during his time in the gulags. The two pieces of wood was placed in such a way so as to suggest to "carry a burden" as well as an "x" sign to symbolize to be "reduced to nothing."

The yellow colour as well as the red colour of the title text bears reference to the colours of the Soviet flag and gives context.

The narrative and facts in the film are presented in an objective manner from all perspectives of history, while giving "justice" to Mordechai's mission and message, which is to tell the world about what he suffered under the Soviet regime of Stalin. From his survivor perspective Mordechai tells his story and the various experts and historians who we feature as part of the film provide context for what he says - in the most exhaustive manner as is possible in the approximately 90 minutes running time of the film.

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