The Lithuanian Radioman that Caused All the Trouble

The Jump

Director: Giedre Zickyte

This film is a feature length documentary

Lithuanian with English subtitles

Running time 1 hour 24 minutes

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

This documentary film will be screened virtually as part of the 8th European Film Festival – https://www.eurofilmfest.co.za/films/

Ever heard of Simas Kudrika? Don’t worry if you hadn’t.

Neither had I until I saw this absolutely brilliant documentary called The Jump by Lithuanian ethnographic film maker Giedre Zickyte whose previous credits included the short documentary film I am Not from Here which won Best Short documentary at the 2016 Budapest International Documentary Festival.

On Thanksgiving Day in November 1970, Lithuanian radioman and aspirant defector jumped off a Russian vessel onto a nearby American vessel off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in American waters.

While the Americans aboard the Vigilant tried to harbour Simas Kudrika and keep him from being captured by the Russian seaman who had boarded the American vessel to hunt for Simas, they ultimately failed, leading to one of the biggest diplomatic muddles of the Cold War, sending ripples through the frosty relationships of the two biggest superpowers in 1970, America and the USSR.

The Russians recaptured Simas and extradited him back to Siberia in Russia and tried him for treason, for betraying the motherland, the almighty USSR.

Simas Kudrika

Meanwhile in America, particularly in political circles under the choppy presidency of Richard Nixon, the Simas Kudrika affair was starting to make waves both in the immigrant Lithuanian communities in New York, Washington DC and Chicago but also for the mere fact that how could those friendly American sailors allow Simas Kudrika to be recaptured by those nasty Russian naval officers when all Simas really wanted to do was defect to the land of the free and the brave, the gloriously opulent United States of America?

From 1970 to 1974, Simas Kudrika remained in freezing Siberian prisons completely unaware that an ocean away, the activists of the Lithuanian immigrant communities in America were successfully lobbying to get him freed and returned to America.

Even former top diplomat and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger (1973-1977) got involved as did President Richard Nixon’s successor President Gerald Ford.

Eventually through a strange twist of fate, the immigrant community in America discover that Simas’s mother was actually born in America so this Lithuanian radioman had some claim to his American birth right.

Documentary film maker Giedre Zickyte expertly blends archival TV and film footage with real interviews with Simas Kudrika in this brilliantly told true story of one man’s journey to defection from the then Soviet controlled Lithuania during the Cold War.

The Jump is a superb documentary, a real slice of cold war historical drama tinged with nostalgia and emotional realism to make the viewer side with who the real Simas Kudrika was, a Lithuanian radioman that didn’t mean to cause so much trouble but just wanted to live in a free country.

The Jump is highly recommended viewing and gets a film rating of 9 out of 10. An absolute treat of a documentary especially designed for history buffs.

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