The story of a handful of Jews who helped crack open the evil of the Soviet Empire. Hopefully, their sacrifice opened the world’s eyes to know what freedom is all about.
Anat Zalmanson-Kuznetsov is a film maker who grew up in a very particular home, the home of dissidents.
How the story began
Though the docufilm is called Operation Wedding, also known as Dymshits-Kuznetsov Hijacking Affair, it is not at all about a happy wedding event. Rather, it is about how a small group of 14 Jews and 2 non-Jews who, in 1970, planned to escape USSR by stealing a 12-seater Antonov An-2 plane that would have taken them, in a 15 minute flight, to freedom in Sweden, with the final goal of arriving in Israel; and how this event became the “kickstart” of the movement that eventually brought down the Iron Curtain of the USSR.
Since the fourteen Soviet Jews were refused permission to emigrate, they decided to fly themselves to freedom in the West by simply stealing a small plane.
The group of sixteen ‘Refuseniks’ ‘hijackers,’ led by dissidents Edward Kuznetsov and Mark Dymshits, spent months plotting their hopeful flight to freedom. The plot, launched on the morning of June, 15 1970, was based on the group traveling together to a wedding – hence “Operation Wedding,” the name of their scheme. They paid for and procured all the seats on the small aircraft to ensure there would be no one but themselves on board. They intended to non-lethally subdue the two pilots, wrap them in sleeping bags to keep them warm, and leave them on the side of the runway until rescued, and Mark Dymshits, a former Red Army pilot, would take over and fly the plane.
When they arrived at the small Smolny (to later be named Rzhevka) air-airstrip outside of Leningrad, KGB agents were waiting there to ‘greet’ – arrest them.
This is how the group’s long years journey, through the Soviet courts, the many years in the Gulag (Soviet Union system of malevolent labor camps in which many people died) began, until freedom was finally gained.
Anat’s ‘Operation Wedding‘ docufilm, filled with much smiles and humor, was first released in 2016 – the Hebrew language version was released in August 2016 and the English language version in December 2016. The docufilm, currently doing its worldwide screening tour, is a true winner. It speaks volumes if a documentary brought me to tears of joy, victory and sadness all in one viewing, as this docufim did.
At the time of the drama around Anat’s parents and their comrades’ arrest and the pursuing huge protests around the world, I lived in South Africa where this unfolding drama was hardly, if at all, reported in the local newspapers. We did not have TV (TV came to South Africa only in 1979) and generally newspapers were much censored. So for me the story was a revelation.
Operation Wedding is a well-made, authentic, without staging or repetitious ‘takes’ docufilm, an inspiration to mankind. The life story it documents teaches us that if one really wants to make a change, take a stand, the right stand, do good for oneself and others and live according to one’s principles, then go ahead and do it, no matter what, even if it is risky, no matter the consequences one may suffer.
Anat’s parents are simply heroes to many former USSR residents who wanted to see Communism end, who wanted OUT of the Iron Curtain wretchedness and could not. Thus they had to remain living in this large roofless, ruthless prison.
The world is indebted to and owes Anat’s parents, Sylva Zalmanson and Edward Kuznetsov, the people of conviction, ‘Soviet prisoners of Zion,’ huge gratitude for opening the people’s eyes to what Communism was/is all about. A lesson to learn when so many still seek the rule of the proven failed ‘Socialism.’ And Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping, in China, nowadays are seizing power and are going the way of “new type Communism,” keeping billions of people in a new type of brainwashing social imprisonment.
I am sure it took growing up and maturity to understand the environment in which Anat grew up and the “cross” her parents carried and perhaps still carry. Luckily, Anat chose to become a film maker and so this riveting story of people who simply wanted out of an imprisonment environment could be told and shared widely, from a very nearby eyes, ears and hearts perspective.
The message of the docufilm is the will, the strength and the power of the individual to influence, to make a difference.
The message to the former Soviet Union, its leftover followers, other regimes that emulate Communism’s tactics and simply put to evil rulers and movements the world-over: there is no ideology and ideal worth decapitating the heads of people. There were many ideologies and ideals for which heads were decapitated senselessly. The ideologies and ideals came and went, but the heads never returned.
‘Operation Wedding‘ is now showing worldwide; this winter 2018 the film will be showing in Quebec, Canada, Florida, California, New Jersey, USA, Denmark and Georgia.