Sunday, October 30, 2016

Olga Benário Prestes (1908-1942)

Olga Benário Prestes is an extraordinary- but not broadly known- case of a Brazilian communist hero. Olga was born in Munich, Germany as Olga Gutmann Benário, to a Jewish family. At the age of 15, In 1923, she joined the Communist Youth International and in 1928 she helped her husband and comrade Otto Braun's escape from Moabit prison. She went to Czechoslovakia and from there, reunited with Braun, to Moscow. As an active figure of the Communist Youth International, Olga undertakes several missions; in one of these she was briefly arrested in Britain accussed as a spy. 

In 1934 she was tasked with helping the return to Brazil of Luís Carlos Prestes, the leader of the Communist Party of Brazil, to whom she was assigned as a bodyguard. In order to accomplish this mission, false papers were created stating that they were a Portuguese married couple. After a failed insurrection in November 1935, Benário and her husband went into hiding, and after barely escaping a police raid at Ipanema, they were both eventually arrested in January 1936, during the harsh anti-communist campaign declared after dictator Getúlio Vargas had proclaimed martial law and was already plotting the 1937 coup that would eventually lead to the institution of the fascist-like Estado Novo régime.

The real identity of Olga was revealed as a result of the close collaboration between the Brazilian diplomacy and Gestapo. After a demand by the Nazi Germany and despite an international campaign, Olga was taken back to Germany in September 1936. The captain of the German liner that took her, cancelled scheduled stops in non-German European ports, in order to avoid possible communist attempts at rescuing her. On arrival, Olga was put in prison, where she gave birth to a daughter, Anita Leocádia. The child was subsequently released into the care of her grandmother, Leocádia Prestes.

This brave communist, Olga Benário, was eventually sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp and from there to Bernburg Euthanasia Centre in 1942, where she was killed in gas chambers. 

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Photo still from the 2004 film "OLGA".
The poster of the film.
In 2004, based on the homonym book by Fernando Morais, the film "Olga", directed by TV and film director Jayme Monjardim, was released. In the leading roles are Camila Morgado, Caco Ciocler, Luís Melo Fernanda Montenegro, Leona Cavalli, etc. "Olga" was Brazil's submission to the 77th Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The film has won more than 20 awards in Brazil and internationally.

Recently, "New Star Art Cinema" presented the film exclusively at Alkyonis cinema in Athens, Greece. A prologue speech about "Olga" was delivered by the KKE MP, Liana Kanelli who described the movie as "a powerful film". 

The Trailer of the film "Olga".