Meet Oma and Bella.
Two extraordinary women.
One unforgettable film.
And a terrific cookbook too.
Oma (Regina Karolinski) and Bella Katz are best friends and roommates who live in Berlin.
They are also Holocaust survivors whose entire families were wiped out by the Nazis.
After the war, they met in Berlin in a displaced persons’ camp and became good friends. Together they taught themselves to cook the dishes of their childhoods. They re-created by memory the foods their mothers and grandmothers had cooked for them as children in Poland (Oma) and Lithuania (Bella). “In doing so,” said Alexa Karolinski, Oma’s granddaughter, “they built a bridge from their past into the present, drawing on tastes and smells from a vanished world as a gift to their children and grandchildren.”
Alexa initially set out to make a cookbook of just the recipes. Behind these recipes, however, she discovered stories that needed to be told. Alexa knew film would be the perfect vehicle to share Oma and Bella’s lives with the rest of us. In this quiet but powerful documentary, Alexa paints a loving tribute to Oma and Bella. Thanks to Alexa, their recipes and stories will live on though all of us.
Alexa writes “After the war, Oma and Bella made up for their lost teenage years by having as many parties as possible, as often as possible. As their families grew and their lives became more stable, Oma and Bella’s celebrations stayed constant, but their venue changed from nightclubs to the dining room.” Watching the film, seeing Oma and Bella cooking and celebrating Shabbat with family and friends, I felt triumphant. You will too.
Next week, I’ll be attempting to make Oma and Bella’s meat blintzes. I’ll be sharing the results in my next post.
In the meantime, you can watch the movie here and buy the book here.
Sadly, just as I had finished writing this post, I heard that Bella has passed away at the age of 90. Alexa writes, “Bella taught me what it means to love, to be a friend and to stand by what you believe, no matter the consequences. She will be so missed and forever remembered.”
All photos were taken by Bella Lieberberg and reprinted here courtesy of Alexa Karolinski. Thank you Bella and Alexa!