Pre-Title Sequence

A slender birch tree sapling by the railroad trembles in the spring breeze. A distant rumble is heard from an approaching steam train. Several carriages pass and as they do, the sapling which has taken root impossibly close to the tracks, shudders wildly under the train’s passing.

A kind of flailing craziness gives the tree an almost human character. The birch continues to quiver as the wheels of the steam train still visible, pass into the distance.

The sapling comes to a standstill.

Film Title: Bloodlands

The Petronas Manor, Marijampole district: around 40 acres of land bordering the railroad track with the forest beyond. One of God’s clowns, Albinas, a solidly built young man with a child’s mind and manners, the son of the Petronas family. Since early childhood he has been compelled by a sense of duty or equally compelled to lying on the grass and talking to himself or his favourite cow Violetta.

Violetta quietly grazes near the giant elm and moos gently upon recognizing her approaching friend. Albinas has seized a crude broom from the inside of the partly hulled out elm. He sets to work, sweeping the leaves around the tree and, as he sweeps, he murmurs under his breath:

“Little leaves of mine, little fallen soldiers. As the autumn comes, there will be many little leaves, many little soldiers…have to sweep…not their place on the walk.” The senior Petronas, watching from his yard, sighs despondently.

The next day, carts with elaborate furniture and a large clock with pendulum roll into the Petronas Manor. Old Gotlieb sighs to Petronas, “We will be taken somewhere. If we return, I know that you will return it, as you are a good neighbor, Joseph. If we don’t return, then it will be a keepsake in our memory.” The clock was very stylish. The Petronas boys Lukas, Vincentas and Algis and their young sister Veronika help to bring the furniture into the house.

The young Albinas is in charge of a most important duty. At different times of the day he carries meals and refreshment to the Zimmerman family, who are hiding in the Petronas’ barn. On such visits, he always pats twelve year old Rina on her head and says:

“Albinas loves Rina. Albinas will protect Rina from anyone.” Then, he plays with Idzelis’ “peyos,” and laughs like a child. For three years, Idzelis entertains Albinas’ playing with his “peyos.” These little rituals added colour to their day.

A column of Jews marches along the dusty road, led by armed men, “White-Banders” one of whom is freckled and missing two front teeth. There are many Jews, exactly 201: men and women, children and grandparents. They walk with their luggage and a few other possessions, sensing, but not yet knowing their fate. The Germans are already waiting adjacent to the forest. The men are the first to be stood by the edge of the pit. Gotlieb’s wife, Leja, understanding what is about to happen, lets out a curdling scream in the face of the toothless guard, “I curse you.” A rifle butt brutally strikes her in the face.

Albinas idles one day waving at the Russian soldiers as they drive past the front of the manor. “God wouldn’t let me work today”, he would explain to his mother. The Russians have arrived, the Germans have left; for the Zimmerman family, hiding was no longer necessary. The Zimmermans offer an emotional farewell to the Petronas’ family for saving their lives. Rina is already fifteen. Albinas insists that he will marry Rina, crying with childlike tears when it is explained that he cannot marry her, only love her from afar.

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