A family forced to live in the Soviet Union for four decades returns to their native Slovakia with decidedly mixed results in Jaroslav Vojtek’s clear-eyed docu “Here We Are.” A natural selection for human rights orgs and socially aware fests, pic is too specialized for much theatrical play outside of regional territories but has modest tube and ancillary potential.
Just after World War II, the Krnac family moved from central Slovakia to the Carpathian Ukraine, and was then forcibly relocated to the Kazakh village of Balgarka by Soviet authorities.
In the autumn of 2000, following the dissolution of the U.S.S.R., Anna Krnac and her husband, Dmitri Kiossya, decide to move back to their ancestral homeland with their four children. They sell everything they own prior to relocating.
But, arriving in Bratislava, they receive the first of many rude surprises: Foreigners, even those with Slovak citizenship, are forbidden to buy property. After much time and with the help of a local parish, they finally find a dilapidated rural house and begin the struggle to make a new life for themselves.
Dmitri gets a job driving a tractor, though it’s a three-hour walk one-way to get there. An affable enough guy, Dmitri and his equally nice family have doors closed in their faces at every turn.
The kids want the usual things — a portable stereo, a used car — but Dmitri is forced to confront someone who’s given his son a shady deal on a small car.
The endless paperwork is humiliating to Dmitri, who notes that bureaucrats asked him why he made so many children if he wasn’t able to feed them. “Well I made them in the Soviet Union,” he says, “when we had everything.”
Eventually, missing Balgarka, Dmitri makes a long-delayed trip back, only to discover that, in the end, you can’t go home again.
Though the social services infrastructure in Slovakia is seen as woefully unresponsive, Dmitri’s tenacity can’t hide his apparent lack of preparation prior to their move. Thus, pic deftly points up both sides of the current immigration dilemma in Europe: Everybody wants a better life and believes it exists just over the next hill, while government services everywhere are strained past the point of breaking, even for foreign nationals who wish to return to their homelands.
Tech credits are tight and unobtrusive, particularly considering the finished product was edited down from 130 hours of footage, including home movies, shot over four years. A September release is planned at a single theater in the Slovak capital of Bratislava.