A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings

A black-and-white photograph of a yougng woman sitting in a wheel barrow being pushed by a young man.
David Chase and Helen Ciesla Covensky in 1945. Courtesy of The Ciesla Foundation.
still from the film A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES

"If you want me to describe my life in a few words, then it's a 'pocketful of miracles'. Things that I really can't explain.” This is how David Ciesla describes his life. 

A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings is a family memoir focusing on the pre-war and wartime experiences of siblings Hanka Ciesla, who passed as a Polish Catholic within Germany, and Dudek Ciesla, who survived Auschwitz, and the story of Harold Kempner, who captured their reunion in Berlin as a military government journalist. Helen and David Ciesla’s life stories are indeed peppered with improbable coincidences and absurd strokes of luck, not to mention tales of remarkable fortitude and perseverance; similar to that of many Shoah survivors, and yet special and unique.  

Berlin-born filmmaker Aviva Kempner chronicles her mother’s and uncle’s lives before and during World War II, from their idyllic Jewish upbringing in Poland to their tearful reunion after surviving the Holocaust. This moving documentary ends by sharing the incredible lives they built in America as painter Helen Ciesla Covensky and businessperson and philanthropist David Chase and serves as a reminder of why it is so important to make films about the fate of those who survived.

Filmmaker Aviva Kempner will join for Q&A after the film with Professor Elliot Shapiro, Senior Lecturer in the Knight Institute and the Knight Foundation Director of the Writing in the Majors program.

Free admission. This event is sponsored by the Jewish Studies Program and made possible by the support of the Drukier Family Fund Award.

Film website: https://www.pocketfulofmiraclesfilm.org/


About the filmmaker

Aviva Kempner is a Washington, D.C.-based filmmaker, creates successful and critically acclaimed documentaries about under-known Jewish heroes and social justice. In 2019, she premiered her fifth commercially-released film, The Spy Behind Home Plate. Her other films include Rosenwald, a documentary about how Chicago businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington in establishing over 5,000 schools for African Americans in the Jim Crow South; Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, about Gertrude Berg, who created the first television sitcom; and the Emmy-nominated and Peabody-awarded The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg, about the Hall of Famer who faced anti-Semitism during the ’30s. She also produced the award-winning documentary Partisans of Vilna, about Jews fighting the Nazis. Her most recent film, Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting, will be available on Apple iTunes and Amazon Prime on February 6, 2024. She is presently completing a documentary on screenwriter and political activist Ben Hecht in 2024. Kempner is also making Pissed Off, a documentary short exploring the struggles faced by female lawmakers in Congress who advocated for potty parity in the United States Capitol.