February 25, 2020

Holocaust Survivor Inspires in ‘Reinventing Rosalee’

Scene from “Reinventing Rosalee”

By any measure, Rosalee Glass has led a tough life. Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1917, she and her husband, Abraham, were forced to work in a Siberian labor camp during Word War II. Their newborn son died there, from starvation. After the war, the couple was transferred to Kazakhstan, where they lived in a chicken coop and had a baby girl who died from tuberculosis and malnutrition. 

The Glasses eventually escaped in 1951 with their new son, Manny, and headed to Miami, where their daughter Lillian was born. However, the couple soon was separated when Abraham, suffering from tuberculosis, was sent to a sanitarium in Colorado for three years. Rosalee stayed in Miami with the children. 

Finally reunited in 1954, Rosalee and Abraham spent the next four decades together until Abraham’s passing in 1996. Then, in 1999, Manny went into anaphylactic shock, was rushed to hospital and died following a botched intubation.  

Rosalee sank into a deep depression, so Lillian brought her mother to live with her. “I took her to the finest restaurants,” Lillian told the Journal. “She wouldn’t touch her food. I took her to the theater and films but nothing would work. She would just wail and scream and be in a daze. And then, all of a sudden [in 2003], she woke up one morning and it was like the clouds parted.”

Rosalee declared that she wanted to live. And not just live, but live her life to the fullest. “I wanted to make myself happy,” she told the Journal.

Despite the fact that she was already in her 80s, Rosalee starting taking piano lessons, dived into tai chi, took tango and boxing classes, and learned French. In her 90s, she got an agent and embarked on a successful acting career, starring in commercials for Google, Porsche and Hallmark, and appearing in a Super Bowl commercial for Dodge. For her 100th birthday, she went to Alaska to ride with sled dogs, started an online life-advice service called Rosalee’s Personalized Advice and released a book, “100 Years of Wisdom.” 

In her 90s, Rosalee got an agent and embarked on a successful acting career, including appearing in a Super Bowl commercial for Dodge. For her 100th birthday, she went to Alaska to ride with
sled dogs.

In 2018, Lillian made a movie about her now 102-year-old mother’s inspirational life story, called “Reinventing Rosalee.” The film has been shown at 92 film festivals around the world and has won 45 awards. It shows Lillian and Rosalee’s travels around the globe between 2005 and 2017, culminating with Rosalee’s 100th birthday celebration.

During their travels, the globetrotting mother-daughter team visited Poland, Italy and Russia. They toured Stalin’s dacha in Russia — where Rosalee got a kick out of using his private toilet — and buried photographs of relatives that died in the Holocaust in Poland. 

While on a tour of the Vatican in 2005, they stumbled across the coronation of Pope Benedict XVI, where the pope and his priests blessed them both. “That was very good,” Rosalee said. “I felt like a new person.” 

The film also tells Rosalee and Abraham’s love story, using old photos and footage that Lillian found. According to Lillian, the first thing Abraham said to Rosalee when he met her was, “I’m going to be with you for life.” Then, on his deathbed, the last thing he was said: “I was with you my whole life.”

“They had a beautiful life together,” Lillian said.

When people watch “Reinventing Rosalee,” it inspires them to call up their parents and spend time with them while they can, Rosalee said, adding that the film also shows that “it’s not too late to live your dreams. It’s about really going for it and choosing life and not being bogged down by the smallness or pettiness of life. Rosalee’s secret to a long life is that she has no hate in her or prejudice or negative feelings. Everything is positive, and that makes such a difference.”

Rosalee said she is looking forward to her 102nd-and-a-half birthday in June. And for everyone who wants to know how to live to 100, Rosalee has one simple tip: “Have love in your heart.”

“Reinventing Rosalee” was released May 7 on Digital HD, VOD and DVD.