PAPERS, PLEASE: A 20th CENTURY ODYSSEY 

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Overview


WELCOME to this home of PAPERS, PLEASE, a Washington D.C. nonprofit arts / education corporation which re-creates an extended Jewish family's first-person journeys through tumultuous cultural, political and economic events -- the Great War, the Russian Revolutions, the rise of fascism, World War II, the Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel  -- that shaped the West's 20th Century. 


The core of these linked individual journeys remains resilience that overcomes desperation and the life-or-death need for proper identity, residence, citizenship or travel documents -- "Papers, please?" -- which our characters face at every border or transition they reach.  This  question shapes their ability to work, study, live, and secure new lives.  It's a theme that echoes for millions of refugees on the move today.


Time Frame: c. 1890 - c. 1990

Countries: Romania, Poland, Russia, Germany, France, Austria, Lithuania, British Mandate Palestine, Denmark, Mexico, Chile, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Israel, the U.S.

Scope: Papers, Please brings together a linked series of  odysseys in a panoramic canvas.  At its core are first-person narratives we collected from our principals, their families and their friends.   That's thanks to Hirsch Bieler, who recognized his story had a broader context that could be grasped only if  unfamiliar times,  places and characters were made familiar.  He convinced us too -- though mastering the who, what, when, where and how of this adventure in life-long learning took us four decades.


Here are this saga's main characters.  Here are its secondary characters.  And here are some of the resources we drew from.


We bring these tales and their times to life through nonfiction books; a series of multi-media Two Pianos 'concert documentaries' with narration plus live classical music, presented around the world; a curated traveling exhibit with numerous artifacts; and video highlights or full-length DVDs of performances.  Highlights videos are on our Two Pianos You Tube Channel.   Highlights videos and performance reviews also are on our Two Pianos website.  


Our books are published under the imprint of Penn Convoy Press, in memory of the oil products company Hirsch Bieler founded in 1939 after he reached the States.  They are illustrated full-length nonfiction volumes centered on first-person oral histories of the main characters and their circles, backed by letters, photographs, travel documents, and historical context.

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The Two Pianos Project is a "sponsored project" of Fractured Atlas, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts-service organization. This relationship allows Papers Please to receive tax-deductible donations through Fractured Atlas or our Project-related activities. Papers Please initiatives primarily are funded through these donations plus relationships with Hosts and in-kind support from individuals and local institutional partners. Contributions are welcome by credit card on-line by clicking this link, or by check payable to Fractured Atlas with "Two Pianos: Playing for Life Project" in the memo line.


                                               -- Michael H. and Nora Jean Levin, January 2023

 


Revisit us -- more coming!

Leipzig Police Registration

"Hirsch Bieler-Suwalski (b. 1 May 1902)"

 marries

"Anna Burstein (b. 4 June 1908)"

Anna's Kulturbund Membership Card, 1935

 "I confirm I am a Jew"

(Collection, Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History)

Hirsch's 2nd request for  Polish Citizenship is denied, 1933

Coming to America: Anna's Nansen (stateless person) passport, 1938

  Anna's Nansen passport, 1938