Telling Olga's Story

Several years ago, shortly after arriving in northeastern Brazil, I pulled a book from my host's bookshelf. Emblazoned with the name "Olga" and a blue Star of David, I began reading not knowing what to expect. Olga Benario was a communist German Jewish woman who lived the life of an action hero. She joined the Communist Youth as an adolescent during the tumultuous period following World War I. A few years later, Benario and a group of others broke her boyfriend out of jail. Wanted by the police, the pair escaped to the Soviet Union.

This would be enough excitement for many people, but Benario’s story goes well beyond. Not only did she train with the Red Army, but she was assigned to guard Luís Carlos Prestes, a former army officer who had led thousands of men in an insurrectionary column back and forth across Brazil.

The working title is “Olga Benario:  The Gestapo’s Most Wanted” because Benario’s file contains some 2000 documents.

Since first reading Olga’s story, I’ve thought about bringing it to an English-speaking audience, since she is virtually unknown in the United States. Her story also has particular resonance now because of parallels between the period in which she lived and current circumstances.

This past summer, as I recovered from a broken leg, I reached out to sources, gathered books from the library, and put together a proposal and a trailer. Since then, I have also connected with a prominent organization that focuses on teaching tolerance to discuss how Olga’s story could be used in classrooms.

My goal is to put together a pilot over the next few months. The vision is to produce both an English and a Portuguese version of the podcast. My rough estimate is that the pilots would cost roughly $20,000 to produce. That money would pay for research and translation help, licensing archival audio, musicians to create music, and my own time, among other things. 

I am incredibly grateful for your interest and whatever support you can offer, whether that is financial or material. Thank you for your help bringing this project to life so Olga's story can reach new audiences at this critical political and social moment.


Zoe Sullivan
Madison, WI

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