At the age of 10, Michael Drob came to the United States as a refugee. For almost the entire year prior, he and his family were stateless, not recognized as a citizen of any country. They left their homeland as many other Soviet Jewish people did in the late 1980s, after the Soviet Union agreed to allow its Jewish population to leave the country. After being denied refugee status in the U.S. with little explanation, Drob and his family were stranded in Italy with no clue of where their fate may lead.
On April 7, Drob presented his documentary “Stateless” to a room full of students, faculty and guests at Seton Hall.
The documentary chronicles the stories of several Soviet Jews who share a similar migration experience. “Stateless” offers a window into the lives of a people who left oppression to realize that they no longer had a home.
“People had to spend time in Vienna and Rome and sometimes they got stuck there in limbo waiting for approval to come to the United States. That period of being in limbo was, as I can imagine, very taxing to people, emotionally taxing and psychologically taxing,” said Maxim Matusevich, associate professor and director of the Russian and East European studies program.
Aside from the firsthand accounts, Drob presents the footage in a particular way. The documentary has footage ranging from people gathering in their homes to say their farewells to how people made money in order to provide for their families.
Among those who shared their stories were his parents, Gennady and Klara Drob and his wife’s parents, Alexander and Yelena Korenfeld.
“The movie is dedicated to our kids. We wanted them to know how our family came here,” Drob said.
Drob is a software engineer by trade, but studied filmmaking at Rutgers University. His interest in making this documentary began while searching for answers as an adult.
“It was on a Russian group in Facebook that a conversation started where I posted a question to find out why my family was getting denied refugee status,” he said. He received a grant from the BluePrint Fellowship project of COJECO, an organization whose focus is preserving the culture of the Russian speaking Jewish community.
His advice to those interested in documentary filmmaking is to get as much help as possible.
“I asked friends for help. Knowing people that can help you is the best advice,” Drob added.
The screening of “Stateless” at SHU was sponsored by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and co-sponsored by the Russian and East European Studies Program and the Slavic Club.
Shuang DeJesus can be reached at email@example.com.