The Film

"It's important for the world to know how we lived and not only how we died."  - E. Hautzig, Author and Vilna Survivor

The World Was Ours is a documentary film dedicated to the memory of Jewish Vilna, celebrates Jewish life in Vilna, Poland prior to World War II. Narrated by the award-winning actor, Mandy Patinkin, it draws on a large collection of video interviews with dozens of survivors and scholars, archival photographs and film footage, excerpts from diaries, letters, poems and newspaper stories. It features archival music evoking the spirit of the times and specially recorded performances in Yiddish, Polish and other music popular in Vilna between the two World Wars.


Produced with careful attention to detail and historical accuracy, this one-hour documentary chronicles the rich, vibrant history of the Jewish community of Vilna, before its destruction in WWII.

The film focuses on the pre-war life of this vibrant culture, depicting its hopes, dreams and remarkable achievements, a cultural atmosphere that produced illustrious figures like Chaim Soutine, Jacques Lipchitz, Jascha Heifetz, Nadia Reisenberg, Avram Sutzkever, Chaim Grade, Joseph Buloff and The Vilna Troupe, naming just a few.

The dedication of Vilna's Jewish community to culture and education was so strong that during the Holocaust, they risked their lives to save precious books and documents marked for destruction by the Nazis. This community, locked in the ghetto and fully aware of their imminent annihilation, continued to present concerts, theatre and art exhibitions. This film tells their story.


✵ The YIVO Institute’s first Vilna Award for Distinguished Achievement
✵ The 2009 Kent Film Festival Outstanding Achievement Award
✵ Honored by the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre

To view a list of past and upcoming showings, view the Events page.

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