By Heidi Simmons
In the small Polish village of Chodel, two little children professed their love to each other. At the age of six, Abe Tauber asked Regina Schneiderman, age five, to be his wife. Her father owned an apartment and rented rooms to businesses. His family owned a large farm just behind Regina’s building. As they grew up, life for the Jewish childhood sweethearts became complicated as anti-Semitism grew. When the German’s invaded Poland everything changed, but nothing could stop the love Abe and Regina shared, nor could it stop their commitment to help those in need.
This month, Abe will be 99 and he and Regina are still together, and still active in their Jewish community back east!
When Patti Gribow read about Abe and Regina in the Jewish publication, she was moved by their enduring love and tenacious spirit. For 30 years, Gribow and her attorney husband, Dale (a CVW columnist), have been friends with Abe and Regina’s son, Jack Tauber. Over the years, Gribow got to know Abe and Regina often seeing them at holidays and family functions. “I knew his parents had survived the war and that they were lovely people,” said Gribow. “But I just didn’t realize how heroic they were and all they had done to help others.”
One particular story stood out to Gribow. Although Regina was Jewish, she could pass as a Pole because of her Polish education, her blond hair and blue-eyes. When she was told about a planned attack on the local Synagogue, Regina and Abe snuck out after curfew to warn all the Jews in the community. “The majority of the congregation was saved,” Gribow said.
Together and separately Abe and Regina worked to save lives during the Holocaust and post-war Poland. When Gribow finished reading the article, she thought it would make a great movie. “It’s got everything! It’s love story, a spy thriller and a great adventure,” said Gribow.
Gribow has lived in the Coachella Valley for 20 years and has produced her own talk shows under Gribow Entertainment. She has interviewed Dan Rather, Senator John McCain, Gloria Allred and many others. Her company produced entrepreneurial and business commercials. She also runs a digital media arm of her company called Imprint Media Production. Gribow is a former actress and entertainer. She has sung for Presidents Reagan and Ford.
Although Gribow has produced hundreds of infomercials and acted, this is her first experience producing a feature film. “It’s different, but the same in many ways,” said Gribow. “I like the challenge and am very excited about this project.” Gribow is beautiful and vivacious. She has an energy and a passion that she brings to everything she does.
Gribow took the story to local producer Kim Waltrip, of Kim and Jim Productions. Waltrip and Gribow have known each other for nearly ten years. Waltrip helped Gribow start Gribow Entertainment.
Kim and Jim Productions has made over a dozen films. Currently in theaters is their film, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy. In November, their film An Evergreen Christmas starring Naomi Judd and Robert Loggia will be released. Other films include Hit and Run and Back in the Day.
“When Jim and I heard the story about Abe and Regina, we were a bit breathless,” said Waltrip. “It had everything. Spies, intrigue, adventure, a beautiful death defying love story and a last act that’s as much of a western as The Outlaw Josie Wales. Abe and Regina are living proof that the human spirit is invincible.” Waltrip believes it is imperative that every generation address genocide both past and present.
Waltrip contacted author and screenwriter Stephen Glantz, who has just been hired to pen the screenplay. Glantz is best known for Wunderkinder, which won the second place Audience Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in 2012 as well as several other global awards. He is also known for the cult classic Showdown in Little Tokyo with Dolph Lungren, Brandon Lee and Tia Carrere. Glantz has written other Holocaust films that include The Last Train and Auf Das Leben!(To Life!).
Glantz is a professor of screenwriting at Emerson College and co-wrote the memoir “Clara’s War: One Girl’s Story of Survival.” It’s the story of Clara Kramer’s life in Nazi occupied Poland. She and other Jews hid in a basement bunker for 20 months while just above them Wehrmacht troops and SS officers lodged. Kramer’s mother encouraged her to keep a diary so that if they did not survive, the world might know what happened.
Just getting its legs, the Abe and Regina film project is still untitled. Gribow anticipates an international cast of characters with a budget around $5 million.
“Their story was a real natural connection for me,” said Gribow. “Family is important and I’m passionate about that time in history and the holocaust. And about survival! Abe and Regina went from something to nothing and built a whole new life together. They overcame tremendous difficulties and took risks to help others. It is about perseverance and love.”
Gribow’s mantra is from Gandhi; “My life is my message.” She wants to make a difference with everything she chooses to do and sees this film as a way to celebrate the human spirit. “This movie is a reminder that we are all on a journey. Life is filled with challenges,” said Gribow. “Life is not perfect or easy. We all experience triumphs and failures, but we keep at it. You have to keep going and make the best of what you have to survive.”