Remuer la Terre de l'Oubli

Modifiée le : 09/07/2009

In 1904 Philippsonville existed. It was a real place that harboured the families who fled the Russian pogroms. For a generation it harboured their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. Yet it is impossible to find on a map today, and has become a mythical place in peoples’ memories. We want to uncover those people, their lives, fears and desires, and present a glimpse of their realities through all that remains behind them. Fleeing from the pogroms in Russia in 1904, a handful of families left their prosperity and their wheat fields in Bessarabia to cross the Atlantic under terrible conditions to reach the tropics. They landed in an isolated jungle settlement, created by a Jewish colonization association, set up in 1891. Forerunner of the Israeli kibbutz, it was the first Jewish agricultural colony in Brazil, situated alongside a rail track in Southern Brazil to accommodate 37 families from what is today Moldova. My project, collaborating with a writer, is to trace the lives of the families that settled on the uncultivated tropical land of Philippsonville in 1904, and the journey that brought them there. Deceived by the living conditions which awaited them upon arrival, they did not stay long. They did, however, remain grateful for the land they received. Today only the ruins of a train station, a tiny desolate cemetery and the collective memories of their descendants mark their place in history. I have begun to follow the traces of these settlers firstly in their hometown of Soroca in Moldova and then in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Tracing surviving descendants and asking them for their recollections. I am in the process of capturing these findings with photographs and with words. I am also gathering current and historical documents, which will help piece together the lives of our ancestors, and in so doing, piece together the journey between ancestor and descendant that spans over a century. These ancient and recent findings will be presented alongside current and past correspondence, photographs, maps, official registers. My aim is to present an elaborate and extensive documentary book in the form of a travel journal, and an itinerant exposition guided by the collective memory of Philippsonville. Accomplishing this project will permit me in the future, to unearth and follow the tracks of other colonies that time and history have forgotten.