Migration, forced or otherwise, is a gamble which brings in its trail opportunities as well as ruptures. Though the freedom and opportunities that await in an unknown land can be a great attraction, the consequent breaking of family bonds hold many back from taking the plunge.

‘Translated lives’, a documentary directed by Shiny Jacob Benjamin, brings on screen the untold story of the migration of thousands of young woman from different parts of Kerala in the late 1960s and early 70s, to become nurses in Germany. The Goethe-Zentrum and Harvest Communications jointly organised the screening of the documentary at the Hotel Hycinth in the city on Monday.

The one-hour long film is presented in the form of conversations with Malayali nurses, now spending their retired lives in different parts of Germany. The conversations, which cut seamlessly between the various women, starts with them recounting the hardships endured in leaving their small village to work in a European country.

The Church played a major part in training them in English and convincing their parents to let them go. For these women, who had not even crossed the boundaries of their respective villages, it was a huge leap. Some took arduous journeys stretching many days in ships while some others had their first experience of flight, on their way to West Germany.

The country, which was recovering from the ravages of the World War II, was in need of trained professionals in various fields, especially in medicine. The documentary says that around 5,000 women migrated from Kerala during the 1960s and 70s to become nurses there.

The first few years were a struggle for them to come to terms with the alien milieu and problems related to language. But over the next few decades, they gelled in, playing a crucial part in the health sector. Many of them married German men, and never went back home.

“When I was 40 years old, I thought I would go back to Kerala after retirement and live happily with my family and friends. But now having retired, I realised that I would never have a social life back home as hardly anyone identifies me there now. So I decided to stay back,” says one of them.

The documentary also compares them with their children, who are comfortable with life in Germany, whereas the women still have a sense of alienation.

Writer Paul Zachariah scripted the documentary. The witty anecdotes by the women add to its charm.