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The Woman Who Fought Authoritarianism on Two Continents
Olga Benário Prestes wearing her military uniform.
Spoiler Alert: There’s a request for donations at the end of this post (and here at the start): https://www.gofundme.com/f/telling-olgas-story
In June, I broke my leg in a bicycle accident. Losing most of my mobility during a pandemic was emotionally challenging, and I found myself re-evaluating the various projects I had been working on. Fairly quickly, I realized that the thing that most captured my interest was a podcast project focused on a woman named Olga Benario. Benario was a communist German Jewish woman who lived the life of an action hero. She joined the Communist Youth as an adolescent during the tumultuous period following World War I. A few years later, Benario and a group of others broke her boyfriend out of jail. Wanted by the police, the pair escaped to the Soviet Union.
This would be enough excitement for many people, but Benario’s story goes well beyond. Not only did she train with the Red Army, but she was assigned to guard Luís Carlos Prestes, a former army officer who had led thousands of men in an insurrectionary column back and forth across Brazil.
The working title is “Olga Benario: The Gestapo’s Most Wanted” because Benario’s file contains some 2000 documents.
I first learned about Benario shortly after arriving in northeastern Brazil in late 2013. My host’s bookshelf had a biography about her, which I picked up because I needed something to read. What I found in the pages of the book was both gripping and tragic.
Since first reading Olga’s story, I’ve thought about bringing it to an English-speaking audience, since she is virtually unknown in the United States. As my leg healed, I reached out to sources, gathered books from the library, and put together a proposal and a trailer.
Since then, I have also connected with a prominent organization that focuses on teaching tolerance to discuss how Olga’s story could be used in classrooms.
My goal is to put together a pilot over the next few months. The vision is to produce both an English and a Portuguese version of the podcast. My rough estimate is that the pilots would cost roughly $20,000 to produce.
I’m sharing this to let you know what I’m working on and also to ask for your support. I’ve just launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise this money: https://www.gofundme.com/f/telling-olgas-story
However, if contributing funds isn’t feasible for you right now, there are other important ways you can help.
For example, you could:
· Make an introduction to someone at grant-making organization that might be willing to fund some or all of the work;
· Help translate documents from German and Russian;
· Hold a listening party with a group of friends (online until COVID is past) to share the work once it’s done.
I am deeply grateful for anything you can do to help me move this project forward. If you’d like to talk about it, please shoot me an email, and we can find a time to discuss.
Thank you for the consideration and support.