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A real-life folktale that bleeds across women and generations.

PAULINA is a chronicle that unfolds through research, travel, translation, digging, planting, trust, and imagination. It is driven by a dialogue between living protagonists Michelle Levy (New York) and Patrycja Dołowy (Warsaw), artist/storytellers who, responding to the echoes of the unresolved past, embarked on an adventure across Poland and Ukraine following a stranger's story that had come into their care. What they found on the road transformed their beliefs in what was possible.

This iterative multimedia storytelling performance (2017 - 2022) will culminate in a nonfiction film by Michelle Levy, about the journey following Paulina and its aftereffects.

Who was Paulina?


Ten fading pages of a testimony written in Polish in Kraków,1945, were all that seemed to exist of Paulina Hirsch, a Polish-Jewish woman in her forties who, "passing" as Polish, fended her way throughout Nazi-occupied Poland. One of the thousands of survivor testimonies taken by Poland’s Central Jewish Historical Committee at the end of World War II, Paulina's testimony is an official, impersonal account. It is filled with facts and details – addresses of places she went, names of people who helped her – but the woman behind the text remains a mystery. When the war began she had a husband and daughter, but the notetaker's introduction states that at the time of the testimony, "Sama" – She is alone.

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While doing research in Warsaw in 2017, Michelle was given the testimony of her supposed long-lost relative, Paulina Hirsch. She asked Patrycja, whom she had just met, to translate the testimony, and the lives of three women became intertwined.

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Patrycja, a member of the small Jewish community remaining in Poland, had been living with ghosts for a long time.

She had read other testimonies, but Paulina's was different from any she had seen. 

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