In Theaters or Watch at Home 02.03.2023


Directed by Katya Ustinova
Film Movement
80 Minutes
Ukrainian, Russian, English, Yiddish
Documentary, Jewish

In the Soviet Union, shtetls were once home to the largest Jewish population in the world. Only a few survived the Holocaust, and those that did were all located in the territory of the modern Ukraine and Moldova. In those small and remote towns, hidden from the world outside of the Iron Curtain, traditional Jewish life continued for decades after it disappeared everywhere else. The tight-knit communities supported themselves by providing goods and services to their non-Jewish neighbors. The ancient religion, Yiddish language and folklore, ritualized cooking and elaborate craftsmanship were practiced, treasured and passed through the generations until very recently.

Katya Ustinova's SHTETLERS follows nine very different people, now scattered around the world, who once belonged to the Jewish and non-Jewish shtetl communities. Their memories are a farewell to the vanished world of shtetl, a melting pot of cultures that many nations once called their home.

Director & Cast

  • Director: Katya Ustinova
  • Starring: Volodya Malishevsky
  • Starring: Vladimir Gorbulsky
  • Starring: Isaac Vainshelboum
  • Starring: Emilia Kessler




  • "An intriguing new documentary by Katya Ustinova, Shtetlers, paints a picture of what life was like in these forgotten Jewish towns, as told through the eyes of nine people who lived in them. The film ... explores a history that is both revelatory and tragic. Ultimately, Ustinova shows that shtetls were a place of deep culture and of “neighborship,” as she called it."
    Maddy Albert, Kveller
  • "Ustinova’s film, with its candid narrators, possessed of deep feelings and strong memories, is ... a worthy contribution."
    Mikhl Yashinsky, Forward
  • "Shtetlers provides a glimpse of living history that should not be forgotten."
    Ryan Silberstein, MovieJawn
  • "[A]n important film, especially now, when anti-Semitism and ideological extremism are on the rise. "
    Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins
  • "[A]n impressive debut that clearly knows what it’s going for and delivers it too. A history lesson with humanity at its heart, Shtetlers acknowledges the importance of–and gives voice to–a whole Jewish way of life lost to time."
    Emma Badame, Alliance of Women Film Journalists