The Elevator Operator is an intimate portrait of an immigrant forever caught between what he's left behind and his pursuit of the American Dream. 

This poignant film reveals the hopes and dreams that animate the lives of millions of recent immigrants who labor unnoticed all across America. It is a great pedagogical tool for college courses on work, labor and immigration.

Ruth Milkman, Professor of Sociology, UCLA

Shy and unassuming, Eugene shuttles passengers up and down in a manual elevator while he discusses his work, his emigration from Chernobyl, the joys of fatherhood and his recent US citizenship. In a moment of sadness, he wonders whether leaving his job as a journalist in Kiev was really worth it. Then he reassures himself, revealing his dream that some day his self-published novel will become a Hollywood blockbuster.

This poetic snapshot takes students of immigration, labor, sociology, political science, economics, social work and anthropology deep into the heart of the immigrant experience.


Jonathan Skurnik captures the daily life of a recent Ukranian emigre elevator operator where the profession was once synonymous with New York's vibrant working class. Ironically, while The Elevator Operator is an anachronistic throwback to glory days of workers in New York, Jonathan Skurnik's film reveals that the dreams and hopes of new immigrants to the city have not changed at all.

Immanuel Ness, Professor of Political Science, The City University of New York

Immigration has recently become synonymous with Mexico. The Elevator Operator is an important film because it challenges that stereotype through the story of an Ukranian immigrant, once a journalist in his own country, who works as an elevator operator in New York City. This story highlights the experience of thousands of professional immigrants who are forced to labor for low wages in jobs that don't make use of their skills.

Carolina Bank Munoz, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College, CUNY

Shambling and hangdog, the elevator operator's polite, soft voice and weary Baltic shrug are expressive both of his misfortune and his hope for the future. Clearly sad to have left his home, he remains up beat about his decision to become an American and Skurnik's film has a wonderful light touch that neither glamourises nor patronises him. It's a perfectly formed documentary.

Ben Blaine, Shooting People Film Curator