The Laughter of Strangers by monica levy | Script Revolution

The Laughter of Strangers

As the world ignores the plight of Holocaust survivors, an exigent, impatient young woman in a Displaced Persons' camp strives to emigrate, ultimately having to choose between her family's future and her own long-held dreams.



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Based On: 
True Story (i own the IP)

Ilona Doszkal (19), and her sisters Heidi (17) and Bishka (16), are concentration camp prisoners on a death march in the winter of 1945. Their parents and other family had been killed upon arrival at Auschwitz. The girls escape from the march, evading Nazis and Russians.

They walk 500 km to their hometown in Hungary. Anti-Semitism there is still strong, so the girls want to go to Palestine. They arrange to emigrate illegally with Aliyah-Bet, an underground organization. Aliyah-Bet won’t accept children under 18, so Ilona can’t go. She promises faithfully to join her sisters ASAP.

But then she meets Martin Jakubovics, a Czech man. After a six-week courtship, Ilona falls in love with Martin and marries him after he promises they’ll go to Palestine. After getting jailed trying to cross the border, they’re sent to a Displaced Persons’ (DP) camp in Leipheim, Germany.

Ilona learns her sisters are in a POW camp in Cyprus. She meets two Zionists, Elsa and Yudah, who convince her to join them creating pressure on the British (and the world) to open Palestine. Martin, jealous of Yudah, disagrees and tries to persuade Ilona that emigration to America would be faster and better.

Ilona gets pregnant; the baby, Hedy, is gravely ill. The doctor and Martin battle with a pharmacist for life-saving penicillin. Martin tells the pharmacist that every Jewish child born is justice against the Nazis, and there's no moral middle-ground. They get the drug, but it doesn't work, so the doctor gives Hedy her own blood via transfusion. This saves the baby's life but the doctor warns Ilona that Hedy needs better care and advises her to “go somewhere else, soon.”

After three years, their application for emigration to America is approved while the one for Palestine is still pending. Ilona is dismayed and tells Martin she’s not going. He's furious and slams out of the apartment, leaving her alone with Hedy.

Ilona is troubled by the idea that if she goes to America she's abandoning her Zionist ideals and the shared dream with her sisters of living in Palestine. Yudah tells Ilona that Zionism is an idea, not a place.

Martin scuffles with Yudah, accuses him of having an affair with Ilona. Ilona steps in and tells Martin she's made the the choice to favor her family’s future over her long-held dreams.

Just before departing, Ilona develops Typhus, which could delay their voyage. With Hedy's health hanging in the balance, Ilona once again figures out how to persevere by getting Elsa to take her place in a screening line.
Ilona, Martin and Hedy finally board the USS General Muir, a troop transport. Martin has a ruptured appendix and is seriously ill. The doctor freezes it to enable Martin to complete the voyage. As the ship sails into New York Harbor, the family sees the Statue of Liberty and embraces, thrilled to start their lives over again.

All Accolades & Coverage: 

Semi-Finalist, Cynosure Screenwriting Award, 2021
Semi-Finalist, Fade-In Awards, 2021
Coverfly Top 18%

Submitted: December 9, 2021
Last Updated: May 2, 2022

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The Writer: monica levy

After a 35-year career in corporate America, Monica decided to write screenplays as an antidote to retirement-driven overeating, obsessive drawer-organizing and the senseless murder of plants. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida with her husband and 3 ill-behaved dogs. Go to bio

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