"The course of true love never did run smooth," wrote the Bard, and truer words could not be spoken of Ina and Jack Polak, whose love survived the Holocaust. Michèle Ohayon tells their story in her new documentary Steal a Pencil for Me.Though Jack was already in a dysfunctional marriage with another woman, the randy young man took an immediate liking to Ina when both attended a birthday party in their native Holland. Not long after, Jack, his wife Manja, and Ina found themselves living across the same barracks in a German-run labor camp.
Under those heightened conditions, a new love kindled that would last over sixty years (and counting). The course of their fates is told partly through smooth use of archival footage and photographs, but primarily through the narrated secret love letters passed between the man and his lover. Transport trains to Auschwitz overshadow the story, which finds the lovers separated several times. In a moment of supreme understatement, Jack says of his love triangle, Believe me, it was not easy.
What it takes to survive is a minimum of consciousness, a maximum of good fortune, and physical and emotional fortitude. Clearly, the love between Jack and Ina is a crucial factor in their living to tell the tale. Ina describes Jacks sheer persistence in winning her heart, and both man and wife find their emotions once more raw in recounting stories of survivors guilt in the face of less fortunate family and friends.
Informal modern footage woven through pads out the film and somewhat dilutes the narrative impact of the war story, but its obviously important to acknowledge the survivor aspect of the story and get to know the now-nonagenarian characters. Certainly, its moving to see the emotional week during which the UN International Day of Commemoration coincides with Jack and Inas 60th wedding anniversary. For love-story enthusiasts, Steal a Pencil for Me brings to life an ultimate unconventional romance.