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Genetic Memory: Remembering Your Ancestors’ Lives

Posted by E on April 25, 2016

intergenerational-trauma babushka dolls

Fifteen years after my family emigrated to Canada, I decided to spend the summer after my university graduation backpacking through France and Spain with Dina, my closest girlfriend. We scoured Paris together, rode the overnight trains, sweated under the intense heat of the Andalucian plains, took countless photos of Gaudi’s wonderful modernist architecture in Barcelona, ate churros con chocolat in the back alleys of Madrid.

I was drawn to the south of Spain, in part because Federico Garcia Lorca influenced so much of my poetry that I just had to see the house where he was born in Fuente Vaqueros, to see the mystical Granada he had loved and hated. I wanted to breathe in the same dry, white-hot air that had filled his lungs and infused his verses. And it was there in Moorish Spain, at the foothills of the Alhambra, that I heard the ancient Judaic language of Ladino for the first time.

Elisa AlhambraThe song was “Durme, Durme,” an ancient lullaby sang by the Sephardic Jews of Spain before they were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula by Queen Isabella’s decree. I don’t remember exactly how I came to hear it – I might have been standing under the awning of a shop, taking a break from the unrelenting heat, or while eating cold gazpacho out on a scorching patio. But as soon as the words entered my consciousness, I recognized them. I knew the song, somehow. I started to hum along with it; my mouth began to shape the words, almost as though they were a memory just hanging on the tip of my tongue.

The trouble was, I wasn’t Jewish. I didn’t have any Jewish ancestors that I knew of and my father had died long ago, when I was 13 – before I could ask him any questions about his background. So I chalked up the experience as a déjà vu oddity, one of those freakish yet ubiquitous experiences we all have once in a while, like thinking of someone just as the phone rings or dreaming of an old friend who happens to email us the next day.

A few days later I parted ways with Dina. We said goodbye in Marseilles, a sun-scorched, dusty place just outside the Italian border. I journeyed on to Rome, then Venice, where I found lodgings in a spartan Benedictine nuns’ convent and spent my first afternoons on the lagoon sitting on bridge steps near the canal, gazing at the mossy green water, writing poetry and sketching the images of stray dogs against alabaster buildings.

barracksThen it was time to travel eastwards into Europe. My ultimate destination was Romania, where I planned to track down relatives in my father’s old village and find out more about my family’s past. But before that, I wanted to visit Krakow, Poland, so that I could make a pilgrimage to the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz, where millions of people met their deaths. I wanted to see the place in order to understand the scope of the brutality that had swept Europe only two generations earlier.

On the day I visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, the sun was high up in the sky. The grass was knee-tall and swayed against my bare legs. The floorboards underneath my feet crackled and snapped as I walked among the barracks crammed with three-tiered bunk slots. Sunlight filtered in through gaps in the planks that formed the walls, smearing long, arrow-like shafts along the ground.

I thought of those nameless prisoners and something deep inside me stirred – the same familiarity I’d experienced when I heard that Ladino song back in Granada. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, and I swear I recognized that smell. The smell of burning ashes and wet wood, of fear and lost hopes.

I was here before.

I was twenty-five years old and World War Two had been over for close to sixty years but somehow I had been there, or someplace equally terrible. In the intense heat of that August afternoon, a ice-cold shudder passed right through me.

Elisa Jewish family historyI hadn’t expected this. At sixteen years old, I was recruited by a Canadian neo-Nazi group called the Heritage Front and sent to work for Ernst Zundel, renowned Holocaust-denier and publisher of anti-Semitic propaganda that was distributed worldwide. I left the group at age 18 and testified against its leaders in court, but it took several years for me to get over the guilt of having been part of such a hateful thing. To understand that as a minor girl, I had been exploited by group leaders.

In the years that followed I lived in hiding, and during that time I used many aliases. The surname I used the longest was Cohen – for whatever reason it felt natural that I would adopt a Jewish surname, and that one in particular seemed to speak to me.

Years later, after I managed to track down my uncle in my father’s village and started piecing together my father’s past, the truth came out. It came in the form of a pretty lacquered box that had been my grandmother’s most prized possession. It was inscribed for her, bearing the name “Anna” on its bottom. And when I opened it, the name Kohan was etched inside its lid – a Hungarian version of….you guessed it, Cohen.

Discovering that my father had been Jewish was a surreal experience. For so long I’d wanted it to be true, because so much would make sense. My collection of babushka dolls and Russian things, my affinity for Ladino music, my connection to Jewish people, klezmer and food, the fact that the Transylvanian region where my father’s family came from was a known place where Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews had intermingled.

For ten years I’d wanted to convert to Judaism, but it was only after I took a 23andme DNA test that the choice to become a Jew became simple. The results showed I had Romanian, Russian, Polish, Hungarian and Italian/Greek roots, and confirmed my heritage as a blend of Ashkenazi, Balkan and Sephardic. The Relative Finder tool even matched me to over two dozen third and fourth cousins with the surnames Cohen, Cohn, Kaplan or Kuhn.

For me, the process of conversion wasn’t simply a matter of embracing the hidden religion of my ancestors and their multigenerational persecution – it also allowed me to accept that the genetic memories I’d experienced all my life were real.

GENETIC MEMORY, AND WHY IT MATTERS

genetic memoryWikipedia defines genetic memory as a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time.

Why should it matter to you?

Discoveries in the field of genetic memory have immense ramifications on our society, particularly among previously-subjugated persons. What would happen if science proved that trauma was passed down in our cells, from parent to child? What if the anger and mistrust harboured by Aboriginal or African-American peoples isn’t something they can just “get over”? What if they are given a reason to sue governments for restitution based on genetic stressors that have impeded their ability to function?

Sure, one could argue that generations of abused and exploited people will produce offspring who mistrust their government because they grew up hearing tales of discrimination and injustice from their parents and grandparents.

But what if that pain goes beyond anecdotal tales about deceased ancestors absorbed by a marginalized community? What if the pain of a massive traumatic event suffered by a parent or grandparent continues to live within your body, in your physical tissues, in your subconscious anxiety and reflex reactions?

Increasing evidence shows that it can, and indeed it does.

I have researched genetic memory for the last decade, and especially over the last two years as I began working on a memoir that discusses the imprint of multi-generational trauma and suffering. Time and again, my research led me nowhere. The scarcity of scientific data is easily due to academic biases: which scientist is going to study the field if he/she expects their work to be derided by fellow academics who pledge irrefutable allegiance to the Darwinian model?

The History of Genetic Memory

Jean-Baptiste_de_LamarckIn the late eighteenth century, there lived a French biologist by the name of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck. He was both a predecessor of Darwinian theory and one of its competitors. He was, in fact, one of the first men in history to propose an evolutionary structure to humanity’s existence. Darwin was a mere babe in the cradle when Lamarck began to experiment on organisms using the theory of genetic memory – rather than natural selection – to account for much of the evolution of all species.

He basically asserted that an organism can pass on its memories and experiences to its offspring, and that in and of itself constitutes our evolution.

A new biologist by the name of Paul Kammerer took up the Lamarckian torch in the 1920s, when he experimented on toads in order to prove the validity of genetic memory. Before his results could be released, however, the experiment was tampered with by Nazi sympathizers who sought to bury Kammerer and his work because of his political beliefs.

Since Lamarck and Kammerer’s work was dismissed and/or destroyed, the study of genetic memory has been dormant. At least, until the 21st century.

That’s when a miracle happened. It started with the new and exciting field of Epigenetics, which explores the concept that traits can be passed down to successive generations without alteration to the genetic code but via some other means, and that the experiences of one’s ancestors have a direct effect on our physical and emotional development today.

Sweden epigeneticsOne of epigenetics’ most quoted (and explosive) studies focuses on a 19th century province in northern Sweden which experienced seven years of famine followed by good harvest and abundance of food. Scientists from the Stockholm-based Karolinska Institute evaluated this history of feast and famine to see how it affected the lives of offspring, and found that “life conditions could affect your health not only when you were a fetus, but also well into adulthood.” They concluded that parents’ experiences early in their own lives change the traits they pass on to their offspring. Scarcity of food in grandfather’s life was associated with a significantly extended survival of his grandchildren for many years, whilst food abundance was associated with obesity and a greatly shortened life span of the grandchildren.

intergenerational traumaBut genetic memory is more revolutionary, and goes beyond trait inheritance to argue that memories can pass between generations. In 2013 several animal studies suggested that behaviour itself can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory. There is evidence that phobias are also derived from ancestral memories.

In 2013, new research was presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego. Brian Dias, a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University, reported that mice inherit specific smell memories from their fathers — even when the offspring have never experienced that smell before, and even when they’ve never met their father. What’s more, their children are born with the same specific memory. Skepticism and quips/tweets such as “Crazy Lamarkian shit,” formed the kneejerk reflex of many scientists who preferred to stick within their comfort zone and deny that genetic memory could ever exist.

Even when faced with new evidence.

IMPRINTING PAIN AND TRAUMA

multigenerational traumaI don’t blame the scientific community for being afraid to pursue what many of us intuitively sense is a reality. Just imagine the floodgates of victims tearing open – the children of indigenous people who were massacred or sent to residential schools. The descendants of African slaves. The children of “comfort women” who were held prisoner and raped by the Japanese during WW2. The offspring of Holocaust survivors. All potentially suing the governments that exploited their ancestors for the brutality, fear and exploitation that still courses in their veins today.

It’s called Intergenerational Trauma.

Lamarckian theory drove the study of Orthogenesis, which nowadays has been called progressive evolution or autogenesis. This is the hypothesis that life has an innate tendency to evolve in a unilinear manner due to some internal, intrinsic driving force.

Do you know what this means?

It means that the fire inside us, that drive to survive and succeed that burns in our hearts and defines our species, that propels us to create art, to reach sublime peaks of achievement, is based on the building blocks of what has come before, but is still part of us.

There are so many trends in evolution that simply cannot be explained by natural selection alone.

IMG_9131How can you define, through Darwinian natural selection alone, that mysterious inner force in all beings to reach up to the sky, to conquer the universe? That emotion that wells up inside us when we look at a magnificent mountain, when we walk along the shoreline of a vast ocean, when we gaze up to the stars and feel something stir up inside our chest, something that cannot be defined in words alone.

Although I converted to Judaism, I don’t consider myself particularly religious in the sense that I don’t go to temple. Both my parents and myself experienced so much trauma in our early lives without ever being saved by divine intervention. I believe that organized religion and its stringent rules has contributed to more suffering and death than any natural disasters in the history of mankind. So I am not talking about God here.

What I am saying is that we are all connected on some level. We are all part of a grand design that is bigger than the archaic mythology that passes for organized religion. Rooted inside our cells reside the desires, heartaches, and yes – even the memories of every one of our ancestors. And it is this combined force that propels us forward, toward bettering ourselves and the world around us.

nesting dollsCarl Jung talked about racial memory, a collective memory of humanity as a species. To him this meant that the ancestral memories of our forbearers have become part of our collective unconscious and are in fact, continuing to shape our world.

Let me put it in a different way: every single thing that makes us who we are is shaped by our ancestors. Our food preferences, our penchant for hot or cold weather, our phobias and inexplicable fears, even our food sensitivities and idiosyncratic habits lie in our genes. A kitten will instinctively search for the litter box before its mother nudges it; it will automatically salivate at the sound of a can opener or an egg being cracked over a frying pan without ever having tasted eggs or canned food.

In the absence of any actual experiences, genetic memory is carried within our DNA, within the genome of our species.

Just as all rivers flow toward the sea, the blood that flows within our veins carries the memory of its first drop. It REMEMBERS – and makes us who we are.

If you would like to help me write my memoir REMEMBER YOUR NAME, please join me on Patreon.com and become part of the journey.

Posted in ancestry, DNA, jewish | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Author’s 10-Step Guide to Creating a Media Kit

Posted by E on April 8, 2016

Media Kit InfographicPress kits should be part of every artist’s marketing and branding program. I’m not here to sell you on why you should seriously consider putting such a kit together – the fact that you landed on this page shows me that you already know the importance of creating a ready-made document that outlines key facts and statistics about your work. That’s why I decided to tackle this subject in Part 4 of my ongoing series The Artist’s Guide to Establishing a Social Media Presence.

Although you can share it with readers or fans, the target audience for your media kit is, well, the media – journalists, interviewers, publishers, book retailers, as well as potential advertisers and sponsors. The kit conveys a polished, professional image of you as a writer and informs them about your Platform – the golden word of the publishing industry.

Everyone working in the arts – no matter your medium – should have a professional bio and press kit ready. Even mainstream journalists I know have their own prepared kit.

So what should you include in your Media Kit?

There are many tutorials on the web which address media kits and their importance. But in my opinion, it all boils down to three simple questions:

1. Who the heck are you?

2. Why should we care about your work?

3. Why does this book matter?

If you can answer these three questions in a friendly and professional (but not too salesy) manner, you are on your way to establishing yourself as a subject matter expert.

THE 10 MAIN COMPONENTS OF A PRESS KIT INCLUDE:

media kit anatomy1. Biography – As part of any press kit, the first and most important thing you should have is a well-written biography of approx. 200-300 words. A professional-looking headshot is not optional – you must include a photo if you want to gain traction in your career. Make it a PDF so it maintains its formatting when you email it. The Bio should include your contact information. This is basic stuff: name and email address, and if you’re not shy about receiving phone calls, you can also add your phone number and mailing address (I recommend getting a PO Box). Basically, have some means that someone can contact you. Make sure that this information is always up to date.

2. Leverage your Expertise: mention any previous awards you’ve won or publicity you have already received. Have you attended artist residencies or colonies? Include copies of any significant press clippings or tear-sheets – I provided photos of feature articles where I was interviewed, and listed scholarships I won to creative writing residencies.

3. Include a direct link to your website, portfolio and blog. I’ve harped on this before, but I can’t say it enough times: buy your own domain. It’ll only cost you about ten bucks a year and it’ll come with a professional email. If you can’t afford hosting, just point the domain to a free website where you can profile your work and establish a social media following: sites such as WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr. I discuss this process at great length in Part 1 of this series. If you have a website, you can use it to upload samples of your work, video clips, podcasts, new photos – any multimedia stuff that now becomes your calling card.

4. Artist Statement – For visual and multimedia arts, an Artist Statement is an absolutely necessary part of the business. It’s meant to allow others to understand why you are creating your art and what you are trying to achieve. Although writers don’t usually present artist statements, I’ve chosen to adopt the practice for myself. After I wrote mine several years ago, I have really appreciated how much it’s helped to define the influences and scope of my work.

laptop keyboard roses15. Exhibitions & Shows – For visual or performance artists, it’s vital that you include any exhibitions you have participated in, both group and solo, no matter how long ago or minor they might seem. Link to the galleries or theatres whenever possible and don’t forget to include previous postcards or prints that were part of previous exhibition promotional material. Also, don’t forget to keep updating your kit as new exhibitions & shows come up.

Writers will want to list a publication history – published books, any places where your work might have been featured, etc. Even if you’re a novelist, include any poetry and/or short fiction that might have appeared in reputable literary journals. Don’t list contributions to your friends’ blog; list only publications that have paid you for your work.

6. Current Press Releases – This is where you unveil new work; you must keep them succinct and limited to one page. You can also list press releases announcing appearances, awards, talks and any future shows. Remember to keep them up to date, especially if your data sheet includes site and social media traffic statistics –you don’t want to keep growing your following but neglect to update your stats to show this growth.

7. Postcards or Bookmarks. You can get fairly inexpensive, good quality postcards that will have your book cover on one side and a brief synopsis of the book on the reverse, as well as the book ISBN and places where it can be purchased.

RaceTraitor postcards - small

8. An Author Q&A: you can compile a short list of interview questions and responses about you and your work. This can include questions about yourself, your background and what makes you uniquely qualified, your inspiration for writing this book, your future projects, etc. This is even more useful for non-fiction titles, where your knowledge and subject matter expertise are intertwined with the value of your book.

sample press kit9. Reviews and Testimonials – this is pretty self-explanatory. If you’re popular and have a significant social media following (read: have 10,000 Twitter followers or blog subscribers) don’t forget to mention it in your kit. Include positive reviews, buyer testimonials, and pretty much anything that shows that people want to hear what you have to say.

10. Sample copies: you can choose to offer samples of your book, i.e. a couple of chapters presented into a ready PDF, or full-length review copies. Personally, when I deal with establishment media I like to provide them with giveaway copies of my book in order to make sure they actually read it. This is what publishers do and it’s pretty much the modus operandi of the arts industry – for instance, recording studios give away tons of free tracks at a CD launch. This of course is highly dependent on your budget. To keep costs low, I don’t recommend giving free copies of your book to anybody but established journalists and bloggers with a platform.

Elisa media kit imageSo without further ado, I’d like to introduce my own media kit – you can browse through my kit on my website, elisahategan.com, but here is my Author Bio in PDF: Elisa Hategan Author Media Kit

It’s still a work in progress, in the sense that I still have to create a Q&A and add a couple of other items, but in lieu of that I might just link to a Q&A interview I did last year with a US blogger on a prominent anti-racist site.

A final word about media kit templates – you don’t have to buy an expensive template or build a bio with Photoshop. I created my Author Bio in Microsoft Word and it only took an afternoon of tweaking to achieve something I’m satisfied with. So just get creative!

Ok, I hope you find all this stuff useful and have fun putting together your own media kit!

If you enjoyed the read, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar :)

work on media kit

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Esther and Easter: How One Human Being Can Change The World

Posted by E on March 27, 2016

Elisa Purim Easter2016By a conspicuous alignment of calendar dates, 2016 is a year when the Jewish holiday of Purim, a holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people by Queen Esther, coincides with Easter Week (and also with Holi in the Hindu faith – the Festival of Love). Only this week, when the stars have aligned Purim and Easter, does it strike me how many parallels there are between these ancient holidays. Not just in the acts of charity toward the less fortunate that both Jews and Christians engage in, but also in the flourishing spirit of hope that surrounds us all.

It was a couple of summers ago, when I was visiting an old friend from university at her place in Cornwall, that I rediscovered the story of Esther. It was the summer I was studying in preparation for my conversion to Judaism, but that week religious texts were the last thing on my mind. I had stopped for an overnight visit at Joseé-Anne’s house on my way to Massachusetts, where I planned to spend the better part of a week in Provincetown and Cape Cod. I hoped to find inspiration for my new book Daughters of the Air, a retelling of The Little Mermaid, along the grassy dunes of Provincetown’s beaches.

We had just finished dinner and were sitting out in her backyard, sharing a bottle of red wine, as twilight painted mauve streaks across the skies. Joseé-Anne was chain-smoking, as she always did when we talked poetry. We gossiped about old schoolmates and professors and chatted about how hard it is to get published these days. I had just told her of my Judaism course when she turned to me and asked abruptly, “Do you know the story of Esther?”

flower of hopeI nodded yes, although at the time it was just a passing familiarity. An orphan raised by her uncle, kind-hearted Mordechai, in many ways Esther was the original Cinderella – chosen above all other maidens as the king’s new bride. Chosen for her beauty and quiet intelligence, Esther not only captured the king’s heart but was able to spark his compassion and thereby save her people from being put to death after an evil plan had been hatched by the king’s close advisor, vizier Haman.

“You need to learn about Esther,” Joseé-Anne repeated. “You need to absorb her spirit into yourself. This was a young girl who had nothing, whose people were persecuted, who was secretly Jewish and in danger. And yet she saved the nation of Israel. She didn’t do this with connections or money; she had nothing but her desire to change the world and save her people. And she did it.”

We fell quiet. Joseé reached over and wrapped her arm around my shoulders. “Find the courage that Esther had. If she could find it within herself to stand up against a king and be so brave, any of us can do whatever we put our minds to. It’s a matter of faith – being alone in the world and having faith that something greater than yourself is there, watching for you. Even in the darkest moments, when there is no light or hope on the horizon, if you believe as Esther did, you will find the strength.”

sunny_daffodilsBoth Easter and Purim are about hope. About rising out of the ashes of humanity’s frailty and finding kindness and compassion when faced with hatred, which almost always stems from fear of the unknown, of things and people who we perceive are different from us. Whether it was Jesus forgiving his Roman executioners, or Esther who managed to save the Jewish people from their executions, both holidays depict the triumph of a single person’s empathy and fortitude over the hatred of the many.

Purim and Easter both signify a new beginning, as well as the end of winter and the birth of spring. Along with Holi in the Hindu religion, they celebrate love toward all human beings. Together, they are holidays infused with happiness and hope for a new future.

This is a message I need to take to heart more than ever before – I lost my mother to Alzheimer’s disease back in December and survived a major depression and suicide attempt this January. A symbolic spring – the rebirth of dreams and possibilities – is something I need more than ever before.

If you can find it within yourself to help me on this journey, please send a message of support through Patreon.

Happy Purim  phoenix

Posted in depression, jewish, judaism, suicide | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

White Lies: How the CBC Ripped Off My Story

Posted by E on October 13, 2015

Elisa backcover

In 1998, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) released a movie based on my life titled White Lies, which starred Sarah Polley.

The film producer and script writer, Dennis Foon, collected as many details of my actual life as he could based on trial testimony, newspaper clippings and interviews I’d given in the media, and then decided to produce a movie script inspired in large part by what had happened to me when I was a teenager.

Trouble was, although my experiences were appropriated for the story, I never received any credit or compensation.

So how did this sordid saga begin?

Hategan documentary VisionTVIn 1993 I was a 16-year old who was recruited into the ranks of Canada’s most dangerous (and notorious) white supremacist group, the Heritage Front. I was the only girl in the core of the movement, and was subsequently groomed for a leadership position. I began writing articles for their far-right publication, Up Front, spoke at rallies and even participated in talk shows on their behalf, such as my appearance on the Montel Williams show alongside White Aryan Resistance leader John Metzger.

I was still sixteen years old when I was introduced to notorious worldwide Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, who welcomed me into his townhouse on Carlton Street in Toronto. As an abused, impoverished, often runaway teenager, I didn’t have a home to go to or a family to care for me, and this is where Zundel stepped in and became a grandfatherly figure to me, while simultaneously teaching me that Jews controlled the world, the Holocaust never happened, and Hitler (whose portraits hung from the walls of his home) was invariably right to eliminate the mentally and physically handicapped, the homosexuals, and of course the Jews.

By the time I turned 17, one of the Heritage Front’s leaders, Grant Bristow (later revealed to be a CSIS agent) started what would become known as the It Campaign – a campaign of terror waged against anti-racist and community organizers who stood up in protests against the Heritage Front. Bristow single-handedly instructed dangerous white supremacists tips and tricks of the intelligence community – how to break into answering machines, impersonate reporters, stalk your victims and terrorize them, threaten and disguise oneself to avoid arrest. The emboldened skinheads went out and continued the harassment with vicious street attacks, beatings, physical and sexual attacks, car-tire slashings, as well as spray-painting / firebombings of places in the community such as synagogues, bookstores, and even the home of a well-known Kitchener-area activist and member of the CJC.

I knew I had to get away from the Front’s escalation of terror. This realization came on the heels of me admitting to myself that I was gay. However, as a core insider I had a lot of information I could access, and had earned the trust of the HF leaders as well as Ernst Zundel himself, for whom I worked as an assistant and errand-girl.

So I turned to the other side, spied on my former friends for 4 months, stole Zundel’s international mailing list, turned whatever information I could to police, and defected. In March 1994 I testified against Wolfgang Droege and 2 other white supremacists in the court of law and sent them to jail for the summer.

Although my info had resulted in convictions and I had been threatened with death, I was denied Witness Protection, while Grant Bristow – the CSIS agent whose years of building up the racist empire in Canada had resulted in ZERO arrests and convictions – was retired in the Witness Protection Program and given a brand new house, two cars, a retirement package worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

meme

I spent a couple of years in hiding all over Canada, sleeping on sofas, floors and dumpster-diving for food before I finally got my GED and was accepted into the University of Ottawa (from where I graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1999 with a double major in Criminology and Psychology).

While still in hiding and going by a different name in Ottawa (they knew me there as Kat), the CBC was making a movie behind my back. A movie they advertised on their own DVD/VHS covers as a “True Story” – supposedly based on the “true story” of another ex-Heritage Front member, Elizabeth Moore.

WhiteLies SP     White Lies UK cover

I tracked down Elizabeth two years ago, after she messaged me through my website – she’s going by her married name now – and we became friends. She’s a nice person actually, a woman who bears no resemblance to the old Elizabeth who was featured (along with me) in Hearts of Hate. She confessed that the CBC had paid her $12,000 to be a consultant on the movie, and that they based it on her. She told me that Dennis Foon, the writer, had helped her get an agent to negotiate with CBC on her behalf.

I thought I had seen the film, but back in the 1990s I was suffering from PTSD issues and I realize now that I must have only seen a commercial for it. No matter – it was unavailable now anyway, out of print and besides, I didn’t really want to revisit that part of my life or Elizabeth’s. So I let the whole issue go, although a nagging thought at the back of my mind told me that I should really see the film and their interpretation of what had really happened.

And then, voila! last week I found it on YouTube, uploaded by a girl named Brittany and chopped into 10 parts. I watched it closely, with a growing sense of horror, as I realized – for the first time – that the CBC hadn’t actually adapted Elizabeth’s story but my own.

The only things Elizabeth and Sarah Polley’s character ‘Catherine Chapman’ seemed to have in common was a nice, middle-class girl background. Oh, and the fact that Elizabeth had actually dated skinheads back then, while I did not (obviously, because I was a lesbian).

The story of Elizabeth-as-Catherine quickly lost credibility as the movie progressed. Her acceptance by a thinly-veiled Ernst Zundel (played by Lynn Redgrave), who puts her to work for him and grooms her as the new face of the movement, was actually my own experience. Elizabeth never worked for Ernst. I did. She was never the “new face of the movement.” These facts were stated about me over and over in newspaper articles throughout 1993-1995, as well as court documentation – from my trial testimony against Wolfgang Droege and his boys.

image1 image2 - Copy

There are scenes where “Catherine” goes to Klan rallies, shooting ranges, and is shocked by the escalation of violence – which makes her turn against “NIM” (which stands for a mash-up of the Heritage Front and Ernst Zundel). At one point toward the end of the film, “Catherine” is directed by a Jewish community leader to steal Zundel’s mailing list – this never happened to Elizabeth, but I did actually take possession of such a list (both from Zundel and Droege’s home).

All of the above-scenes were lifted directly from interviews I did throughout 1993-1995 with CBC, CTV, Vision TV, and various newspapers – notably Toronto Sun, Globe & Mail, and the Ottawa Citizen.

TO Sun feature defection hategan testimony

I should add that there was a secondary character by the name of Erina who is essentially a used-up ex-NIM member whose only act of protest against the hate movement is to hang herself. The CBC had the nerve to advertise that Erina was based on Elisse Hategan.

Moore shown in Choose Your Voice, 2005

Moore shown in Choose Your Voice, 2005

So why pay Elizabeth $12,000 and pass off my story as her own? It’s a tough question, and I speculate it has to do with the fact that I was in hiding for my life and using different names, so they couldn’t reach me for comment. At the same time, Dennis Foon (as interviewed in the movie’s ‘Bonus Feature’) was excited by the prospect of making a film about a “normal”, “educated”, regular, “middle-class” white girl from the suburbs, with “nothing particularly deviant or crazy about her” (i.e. not abused, poor, gay or particularly vulnerable, etc.) who attended university being caught up in the white supremacist movement – while myself, as an abused runaway high-school drop-out from a low-income single-mother household, didn’t fit Foon’s arguably elitist profile of “girl next door”.

Ironic, considering that at 16 I was a runaway, homeless MINOR in need of a family when I was recruited, and by age 18 I defected from the group and turned information to police. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a university-attending, 19-year old ADULT from an upper-middle class family who stayed in the group until age 21.

Ironic also, given the fact that my father was Jewish (I converted to Judaism and embraced my family roots several years ago), but Elizabeth comes from old Christian stock. Perhaps Foon and the CBC felt a privileged, Christian girl from a wealthy family would be more appealing as the girl-next-door?

There is also the issue of the story arc – the truth is, Elizabeth Moore came into the movement, stayed for a couple of years, dated someone in the group, distributed some posters, recorded hotline messages, wrote a couple of articles for Up Front, and then left as unmemorably as she had entered. According to her own admission in an essay titled From Marches to Modems, her first concerns about being a member of a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group came after she was featured in a documentary called Hearts of Hate – after it came out, she became very concerned about how she would be perceived (as in, her public image and I assume her school-grades) by her university circle, neighbours, etc.. It certainly wasn’t due to a perception that what she was doing in the Heritage Front was actually wrong.

Elizabeth Moore describing what made her leave the Heritage Front

Elizabeth Moore describing what made her leave the racist Heritage Front in the essay “From Marches to Modems”

If the CBC had made a movie about that, it would have been a flop – there was no action, no drama, no excitement. Elizabeth lived in the Annex (Clinton St) in Toronto for many years afterwards – pretty strange behaviour for someone who claims their life is in jeopardy. Nobody attacked her, nobody from the Heritage Front held a knife to her throat and threatened to take her life (like Peter Mitrevski did to me at Wolfgang’s urging). By her own admission (via a Facebook conversation with me in 2014), she was only a tertiary, fringe group member who wasn’t trusted with any sensitive information by the group’s core members:

liz confession1-1  liz paranoid

But that didn’t stop her from unsuccessfully asking the Canadian Jewish Congress to help her get admitted into the Witness Protection Program, a preposterous idea given that she didn’t actually possess any sensitive information and was never in danger. In fact, there are ZERO police records, independent evidence or media accounts /reports /articles about Elizabeth’s involvement with the Heritage Front until Hearts of Hate came out. There is virtually nothing as far as real evidence to back up her questionable claims of endangerment or self-importance. In sum, after hearing Elizabeth’s own confession – both in writing and several conversations – that she had been considered paranoid by several psychiatrists back in the 1990s (and after witnessing her mindset in relation to another extremely serious and troubling issue which I won’t mention publicly due to respecting the privacy of both Moore and other Canadian Jewish Congress individuals in question), I believe that she became fixated – even obsessed – with my story.

Unlike me (i.e. CBC’s “Catherine”), Elizabeth didn’t go to any gun ranges, Klan rallies, and most certainly didn’t steal any information, from Zundel, Droege or otherwise, to incur as far as I know any danger on the part of the HF. She didn’t “defect” from a group where, by virtue of being female (a ratio of over 10-1 in the hate moment) and a university student, was invited to tag along with Wolfgang and the boys, but wasn’t actually taken into confidence in terms of their terror attack plans on their so-called “enemies” – they had learned their lesson after I had betrayed them a year prior to Elizabeth coming on the scene.

I came out as a lesbian before Elizabeth decided she was gay too

I came out as a lesbian a year before Elizabeth Moore decided she was gay too…maybe. Or maybe not.

Moore telling me in a 2014 email that she thought she was gay too.

Elizabeth Moore tells me in a 2013 email that she thought she was gay too

And yet, that didn’t stop her from continuing to walk in my footsteps: after I came out as a lesbian and my coming-out was featured in Now Magazine, Elizabeth (who’d always dated men before, including a racist HF skinhead) confessed that she also went through a gay period (she’s back to straight now). Then she wanted to work with the media, and was excited to get that gig with the CBC.

Hategan defectionUpset, I decided to confront Elizabeth with the reality that the CBC producers who made the film had appropriated my story. Dennis Foon’s own website states the following:

“I was intrigued when I read about a high school girl, Elizabeth Moore, who had been recruited into the Heritage Front, a neo-nazi group in Toronto. She rose up in the ranks of the organization before she finally defected.”

Rose up the ranks? Defected?  Dennis Foon lifted that description from a Toronto Sun article written about ME.

According to Elizabeth’s own confession, she was only a tertiary, fringe group member.

liz confession1-1 

During the 3 years she was a fringe member of the Heritage Front, Elizabeth’s involvement was NEVER documented in any articles, press/media –  with the exception of Hearts of Hate, a documentary she volunteered to appear in, there is absolutely no evidence of anything that could constitute her “rising in the ranks” or having any significance whatsoever to the group’s leadership, other than perhaps in her own mind.

Unlike what the film depicted, Elizabeth Moore was never a speaker at rallies – I was. She never had access to Ernst Zundel’s data and I doubt she was in his townhouse more than a couple of times. I had enough on the Heritage Front to put its leader behind bars and disband CSIS’s Operation Governor – since I testified in Parliament in front of a specially-appointed Senate SubCommittee that investigated Bristow’s illegal activities, CSIS had to hide him in Alberta. His days as agent provocateur extraordinaire were over.

Hategan articleGrant Bristow CSIS Elisa TO Star article

Did Elizabeth Moore shut down the Heritage Front? Absolutely not. What were the CBC smoking – because I want some of it. Given Elizabeth’s own confession that she had been considered paranoid by several psychiatrists and that she hadn’t actually been taken into the group’s confidence, I believe that she fixated on my story after it received national press attention and subsequently (while I was in hiding for my life) appropriated it for her own benefit.

No – the Heritage Front, Ernst Zundel, and the whole neo-Nazi movement in Ontario were essentially shut down by the actions of a few brave anti-racist activists: Martin Theriault, Rodney Bobiwash, myself, Ruth M and Annette H, and by the hard-hitting articles penned by Toronto Sun’s Bill Dunphy. Although they continued to operate for a couple of years afterwards, they were nothing like the power-force they used to be in the early 1990s.

When I confronted Elizabeth, this is what she wrote back. It’s an exact quote of the email she sent me yesterday afternoon:

“What Dennis learned about you came from legit sources like court records, newspaper articles and talking to many people who knew you then. He did over a year of research on this”

CBC evidence

So basically, Elizabeth herself ADMITS that Dennis Foon (along with his chain of command, which include Phil Savath and Brian Freeman), researched my story via court documents, interviews with people who knew me, and then made a movie about…..Elizabeth?

Maybe since our names were basically the same (Elisse/Elisa vs Elizabeth) and we are both short, dark-haired women, they thought nobody would notice.

It’s pathetic.

Pathetic because while I was dumpster-diving for survival and begging for spare change on street corners while in hiding, people were making money hand over fist based on what had happened to me. Producers were attending Emmy and Gemini galas and getting nominations for a film that wouldn’t have existed without me.

Pathetic because even after I wrote my memoir last year and was interviewed by the CBC’s Director of Programming / Original Program Development Sadia Zaman (who interviewed me 20 years earlier in a half-hour documentary for Vision TV), nobody at the CBC was willing to give me even a sound-bite of coverage. The story wasn’t relevant anymore – in today’s political climate, only Muslims can be terrorists. There’s no such thing as racism and white supremacy anymore.

I guess they had already capitalized on my story and were busy supporting other CBC rock stars like, you know, Ghomeshi?

I don’t know of any lawyers who can help me pro-bono in going after the CBC – but if you can help, please email me. Regardless of whether I can win a lawsuit against them or not, it’s clear that from a moral (and karmic) viewpoint, my story was exploited and I received no compensation, no credit whatsoever from the publicly-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. I have an extended collection of media clippings that demonstrates many of the events depicted in White Lies were actually based on my experiences.

I would suggest the CBC revise the title of that shoddy film as “CBC Lies.” For anybody who is interested in what really happened back in the 1990s, please read my book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-Up. (Sorry for the shameless plug, guys, but I didn’t score a dime from the CBC and I’m telling a TRUE STORY.)

book2 Elisa and RT

So if you’re reading this – Dennis Foon, Phil Savath, Brian Freeman, Kari Skogland, whoever else worked on it and yes, especially Elizabeth Moore – you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

karma

Posted in cbc, elizabeth moore, heritage front | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Journey to Judaism: The Day I Became A Jew

Posted by E on August 10, 2015

Elisa Jerusalem cropped

I became a Jew on the day I was born, December 17. Thirty-eight years had passed between the moment my mother gave birth to me in Romania and the day I was formally accepted as a Jew by rabbis in a North American synagogue.

After I’d completed a year of study, my mentor rabbi informed me that I was ready to take the next step toward conversion – writing a formal essay explaining why I wanted to embrace the Jewish faith, and meeting with a Beit Din. For those reading this who are unfamiliar with the term, a Beit Din is a rabbinical court assembly made up of three observant Jews (at least one of whom is a rabbi) who decide if a convert is fit to be accepted for conversion to Judaism.

Embracing Judaism was the last step along a journey of self-discovery that had taken me many years to explore, and I wanted to do this right – it was important to me that I should have a conversion process that followed the halacha (Jewish law) closely, which meant having a Beit Din made up of at least one rabbi, followed by a ritual immersion in a synagogue mikvah – a pool of water derived from natural sources.

It was the beginning of December and with my birthday right around the corner, it was only natural that I would schedule my Beit Din and Mikvah day on my birthday. How could I choose any other date? What better day to experience a spiritual rebirth and be formally acknowledged as Jewish?

The sun was shining brightly when I woke up early in the morning – too early in fact. The excitement and nervous butterflies churning in my stomach made it impossible to go back to sleep. ‘This is the last day I’ll wake up and not be Jewish,’ I thought. I busied myself by having a long shower, brushing and flossing my teeth, washing my hair and scrubbing my fingernails and toenails free of any traces of nail polish – there was to be no barrier between the body and the Mikvah water.

Brilliant sunshine illuminated the path toward the Beth Hillel synagogue where I would be formally interviewed. I knew it would be a beautiful day, and it turned out exactly as I’d imagined – how could such an important day ever be shrouded in clouds?

The rabbis met me in the lobby of the synagogue at noon. My Beit Din was composed of three ordained rabbis, all active members of the Rabbinical Assembly, although one had retired from his congregation. After everyone arrived, we walked over to the meeting room in the back of the synagogue. A long conference table split the room which could have seated twenty. The three rabbis sat on one side of the table, and I took a seat across from them.

“As we begin, I’d like you to tell us what brought you here and why you want to become Jewish,” Rabbi Levine said.

I summarized some of the key points that I wrote about in my conversion essay:

“The feeling that propels me toward Judaism isn’t as simple as breaking it down into words. It’s a feeling, an echo of something within myself that I am just now recognizing and giving voice to.

I feel that I have always been a Jew. I was born in the mid-1970s in communist Bucharest. Under Ceausescu’s dictatorship, Romania didn’t prioritize religion, choosing instead to indoctrinate their people to worship the State. I don’t remember either of my parents being religious in any way. We never went to church. I identified with my father’s family much more than my mother’s side. I stood out among my maternal cousins by being the black-haired, dark-eyed child who didn’t fit in. People said that my father and I ‘looked Jewish’.”

 Iosif Hategan age 15 Iosif and Ana

Above: me at age 11.  Centre: my father Iosif (Josef) at age 15.  Right: My father and grandmother Ana.

We emigrated to Canada when I was 11 years old. My father subsequently decided to return to Romania and died there when I was 13. I never had the opportunity to ask him all the questions I would have liked to know – Why did he hide his own heritage? Why did he feel ashamed of who he was?

I’ve had people tell me, Why bother to convert. Your father was a Jew, you don’t believe in Jesus as the messiah, so what’s the difference? But it bothers me that I am not recognized by all Jews as a fellow Jew because of my patrilineal descent, and I feel the need to undergo this formal process so that I can both learn much more about Judaism, and to feel like a “real” Jew.

In my soul, heart and mind, Judaism is more than a religion for me. It’s a shared history, a family and a connection that has always been there, just outside the realm of my consciousness and yet was always there. Like a pulse that cannot be subdued.

After my father’s death, I lived in a rough low-income neighbourhood with my mother. As time went by, she grew increasingly abusive and I had no choice but to run away. Between the ages of 14-16 I lived in several Children’s Aid homes. In time, I ran away from an abusive foster home and returned to my mother’s apartment. At age 16 I was friendless and desperate. Eventually I became recruited by a neo-Nazi group, the Heritage Front. They became the family I felt I’d never had, and looked after me at a time when my only choice was to live on the streets. They also put me in touch with an internationally-renowned Holocaust revisionist and Hitler sympathizer, Ernst Zundel. Zundel gave me a job working in his basement printing press, fed me and looked out for me.

By the time I turned 18 I knew that what the group was doing was wrong. I wanted out of the organization but they were possessive of me and I didn’t know of a way out. I attempted suicide and eventually I turned to an anti-racist activist, who put me in touch with the director of a think-tank on extremist right-wingers. He, in turn, asked me to spy on the Heritage Front and Ernst Zundel and collect information that could be turned over to the police.

defection 1994-2Hategan articleMetro Toronto

For half a year I gathered as much information on illegal activities, weapons and dangerous persons, as well as stole Ernst Zundel’s national and international mailing list, which consisted of people all over North and South America and Europe who had sent in money to fund Zundel’s Holocaust revisionist projects. In 1994 I testified in court and sent 3 Heritage Front leaders to prison, effectively dealing a serious blow toward dismantling the group.

I was only 19 years old. I lived in hiding and attended university in Ottawa under an assumed name. Upon graduating Magna cum Laude with a Criminology and Psychology double-major, I taught ESL in Seoul, South Korea and subsequently travelled throughout Europe the following year.

I spent some time in Krakow and visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. Something stirred in me that summer – an inexplicable familiarity, a sense that I was connected to those places in some undefinable way. When I first heard Ladino songs, it was as though I could almost recognize them. The music seemed familiar somehow. Then there were the places in the south of Spain, as well as in Poland and Hungary that I visited – they felt as though I’d been there before. In Debrecen, the city my father was born in, I allowed my feet to take me where they wanted to go, and I ended up on a narrow, cobblestoned street, in front of a half-burned synagogue with smashed-out windows.

It felt like I had been there before. The feeling was strong, palpable, like a childhood memory – a memory that was just outside the realm of my consciousness.

I eventually returned to Canada and tried to lead a normal life. But something always clawed at the back of my consciousness, pushing me toward a Jewish path. I lived along Bathurst street, in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. I began to read books on Judaism and spirituality. Ten years went by since I first thought of undergoing a formal conversion to Judaism, but something always held me back – I first wanted to discover the truth about my father, my family’s past. I had to know our own past in order to go forward.

Years later, during a visit to my paternal grandmother’s village in Transylvania, I tracked down relatives, old family friends and neighbours, and asked questions. At my uncle’s house, among my deceased grandmother’s possessions, I discovered a box of mementos and photographs that I’d never seen before. The box was marked with the Jewish surname “Kohan” – the Hungarian version of Cohen. I finally began to believe that my suspicions had been true, and that my father had actually been Jewish.

Back in Canada, I ordered a DNA kit from 23andme, sent in my saliva sample and waited for a month to receive my results. When they came in, it was a surreal experience – one of the most significant days of my life. To realize that after so long, what I had suspected was actually true! I burst into tears of joy, knowing that I was no longer alone – at last I had a past, a history. And well over 20 relatives in the 23andme database with the surname Cohen, some of whom offered their help in piecing together our common ancestry.

23andme EH profile  23andme EH profile2 

Part of my conversion essay:

In my soul, heart and mind, Judaism is more than a religion for me. It’s a shared history, a genetic memory, a family and a connection that has always been just outside the realm of my consciousness, yet was always there. The more I learned about Judaism through my study, the more I felt my bond to the past grow stronger.

My father’s denial of his religion and heritage was like an invisible wall that kept me from my past. But with each day and each hour, the wall becomes increasingly transparent. The bricks fall apart and I begin to see a glimpse of something beautiful and mystical on the other side. The shadows of those great-grandparents and the whispers of their lives comes through to me, through me, and out into my very own existence.

I have had thousands of Jewish ancestors from Poland, Russia, Galicia, Ukraine and Romania, whose truth, lives and stories have been wiped off in only two generations. One hundred years. That is all it took to wipe out my family’s connection to their own lineage and heritage.

I look at the world and wonder how many others walk around unaware that the blood of Sephardic conversos or Ashkenazim forced to hide their religion runs through their veins.

I aim to reclaim that heritage.

“Please read your Declaration of Faith for us, Elisa.”

I stood up and read the piece of paper which I had practically memorized over the past year.

declaration of faith Iosif and Elisa Anna-Philip

Left: my declaration of faith. Centre: my favourite photo of me & my father.  Right: grandmother Ana with her husband.

Afterwards, they asked me to sign it and I did so, then handed it back to them. I answered several questions related to holidays and ritual, and recited a couple of prayers. Then one of the rabbis asked me more about my father’s family. “Did you know the biggest group of immigrants to Israel after the war were from Romania?”

I hadn’t known this, and he smiled at me warmly and told me a story about his friends who had come from the same part of Transylvania as my father. Then our conversation touched on the Holocaust, and I mentioned the profound experience I’d had in my twenties when I visited Europe’s biggest concentration camp, the largest mass-murder site in the world.

Rabbi Fertig sat up. “You were at Auschwitz?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“What was it like?”

I gazed into the distance, recalling the summer of 2001 when I had backpacked across Europe, and how my journey to find my roots had led me to Auschwitz. “I went in the summer, when the grass was this high.” I said, lifting my hand to indicate waist-height. “It was a sunny day. A very beautiful day. The sun was high up in the sky, and there was such a vivid a juxtaposition of life and death. The grass was buzzing with crickets and frogs, filled with life….right up among those terrible barracks at Birkenau. I walked inside the barracks and felt that emptiness….the void, the echoes of the lives that had been lost there.”

Rabbi Levine stared at me for a long time. “So many millions perished in the Holocaust – and now you are returning to the fold.”

“I am but one drop,” I said quietly, my eyes filling with tears.

We all fell silent. After some time, Rabbi Brief asked me, “Have you chosen a Hebrew name?”

There was never any doubt in my mind what my Hebrew name would be – Elisheva, of course. The Hebrew version of my own given name. Better yet, it somehow ‘fit’ me. It felt more right than anything else.

“Elisheva Sarah.”

Rabbi Levine cleared his throat. “I am obliged to inform you that although a Conservative Beit Din is accepted by all conservative and affiliated denominations, some Orthodox will still refuse to see you as Jewish.”

I nodded. “Yes, I know this.”

“Do you have any questions for us?”

I hesitated. “Do you think….will I be accepted by a Reform synagogue?”

The rabbis looked at each other in amusement. “They’re going to love you,” the oldest of the rabbis answered. “Reform already recognizes you as a Jew because you have a Jewish father – so just based on the fact that you still went through this when you didn’t have to.”

Rabbi Levine peered into my eyes. “I read your conversion essay and I have to say it really moved me. You’re a very good writer. A very gifted writer.”

Something stirred inside me. Trying to fight back the knot in my throat, I said, “I’m working on a book to preserve the memory of those in my father’s village who have been forgotten. I want to do this for them – I’m the only one left who still carries their stories. Everyone else has passed.”

He nodded, and his eyes communicated such a deep empathy, such a sense of recognition and understanding, that I had to bite my lip to keep from tearing up. My eyes swept the room – the other rabbis were nodding, acknowledging me. I felt, in that moment, that they were seeing the real me – that part of my core I had kept hidden for so long. The vulnerability. The sadness and the truth of what I’d always known to be true. The real core of me.

Rabbi Levine pushed back from the table. “I am ready,” he said. He looked to the others: “I know it’s cutting this short, but I’m satisfied with this. I’m ready to make this woman Jewish.”

my Mikvah my mikvah2

We walked out of the synagogue and around to the side of the building, where another door stood open. A tall, thin woman waited for us there, her hair covered under a beret-type hat. She beckoned us in and we shook hands. “Welcome Elisheva,” she said, smiling at me. “You can leave your coat and stuff here. I warmed up the water really well for you, and have everything set up for you. Come and let me show you around.”

I smiled back at her, and Carol’s eyes glided to my hair. “You have long, gorgeous hair,” she said with a smile, and I instantly read between the lines. The hair was going to be a problem. Making sure there were no tangles was going to be challenging enough. But then she added, “I’m concerned that it might float up when you submerge. Every strand has to go underwater.”

The rabbis sat down on a small bench in the narrow corridor that led to several rooms, including the one where Carol was leading me. It turned out to be a small but perfectly clean bathroom with a shower stall and all the toiletries one could imagine.

She closed the door behind us and pointed out everything, careful to inspect that I wasn’t wearing any nail polish. I started to remove my earring studs and put them in my backpack while she explained what I already knew – I was to scrub off everything once again, wash my hair thoroughly and brush it so there were no tangles anywhere. Then, when I was ready, to walk through another door wearing little bootsies to keep from slipping and only the towel.

“The Mikvah is completely private,” she assured me. “The rabbis will only listen to the submersion and I will be the only one in the room with you. They will hear you say the prayer, but they cannot see you. I am here to make sure your privacy is respected and I myself will not look at you – when you descend into the Mikvah I will hold up the towel and respect your privacy. You can rest assured that your privacy and modesty will be respected at all times. So take as long as you need to get ready, and I will be on the other side of that door.”

After she left, I tried to keep myself from shaking. To think that I was so close to the Mikvah I’d read so much about, so close to the completion of a journey that had taken me years to achieve!

The bathroom was spartan and super-clean. A shelving unit ran beside the sink, and everything I could possibly have forgotten was there: nail polish remover, cotton balls, extra soap, toothpaste, shampoo, dental floss, even a small vial of Air d’Temps perfume that I planned to spritz on after the ceremony was complete (but forgot to, in the ensuing excitement). As Carol had promised, two different kinds of combs lay ready to tackle my difficult hair. I chose the one with the wider-spaced teeth and bravely stepped into the stone shower stall.

The shower itself was as I’d expected, with the worst part being – of course – running the brush through my well-shampooed (but not conditioned) curls. Needless to say, when it was all said and done I lost more than my usual amount of stray hairs, possibly because I was so excited, nervous and emotional about the ritual to follow that I brushed a bit too impatiently and managed to snap off some more split ends.

The last thing to go were my contact lenses. The Mikvah rules were that nothing could stand in the way of the water immersing the body, not even contacts. I placed the case carefully on the sink ledge and wrapped the fresh white towel around my body.

Then I reached for the door handle and stepped into the other room.

The room was low-lit, with several pot lights illuminating only the water – which was as blue as the sea. The Mikvah was larger than I’d imagined, much larger than a Jacuzzi but not quite the size of a swimming pool.

Am I really here? Is this finally happening? I wondered, gazing in awe at the water that would soon immerse every bit of my being. It’s so beautiful.

I kicked off the bootsies and held still while Carol the Mikvah Lady inspected me in order to pick off any stray hairs that may have fallen down my back. I checked myself also and found an additional long hair that I handed her.

After she discarded the loose hairs, Carol came back and stepped behind me. “You can give me the towel and go in now,” she said, holding the towel I handed her up in front of her – as promised, to protect my modesty. Although I’d wondered what it would feel like being completely naked in front of a stranger, I realized that I didn’t feel embarrassed at all – this felt like such a perfectly natural, even maternal process.

I walked toward the Mikvah and began to descend the seven steps that led down to the main pool. I held the railing and stepped down the seven steps–each one representing a day in the Creation story. Then an unexpected challenge arose: by the fourth step I could already tell that the water was too deep. As in, over my head. I’m not a swimmer by any stretch, and have never managed to hold my own in the deep-end of a swimming pool. I would never be able to touch the bottom.

Over the past year I’d researched anything I could find about other people’s accounts of their conversion ceremonies, but had never read about the situation that confronted me now – being only 5’2” tall, by the time I reached the lowest step I was already immersed up to my chin.

I gazed into the shimmering depths of the main pool and realized, not without a fair amount of trepidation, that I would never be able to stand upright in it. The water was high enough to go over my head. Although I love splashing around in water, I’m not a swimmer and have never managed to tread water in the deep end of a swimming pool.

An irrational fear seized hold of my mind. Has anybody ever drowned in a Mikvah? I wondered, cringing inwardly at the ridiculousness of the question. Worst case scenario, Carol the Mikvah Lady was here, along with three rabbis on the other side of the wall partition. Surely somebody would pull me out if I didn’t resurface after a while, right?

My desire to become a Jew was now confronted head-on by my fear of drowning. The combination didn’t make for a particularly mystical experience. Did I want to convert badly enough to risk drowning? Would you rather live as a Christian or risk drowning to become a Jew?

The answer came hard and fast: YES. Yes, I wanted it that badly. Badly enough to jump off into the deep end, where the water towered above my head – not knowing if I would bob back up or sink right to the bottom.

Over the months that led up to this ceremony, I’d imagined this day to be a peaceful, holy, life-changing process. In a way, this was still partly true – with that tranquil blue water so warm and lovely, lapping at my skin, an aura of serenity had surrounded me. But suddenly another part of me was seized with fear. As anxiety mounted in my chest, I realized that in order to become a Jew I would have to conquer my terror.

I took a deep breath and tried to balance myself on the lowest step, which was really hard because the salt water makes you buoy about, making it impossible to keep your feet firmly planted onto the tiled ground.

“Are you ready?” Carol’s voice resounded behind me. “Take your time. When you’re ready, I want you to take a deep breath and jump away from the step. When you’re fully immersed under the water, lift your legs up so that you don’t touch the bottom to make sure that for an instant, you’re floating free.”

I sucked in a deep breath, steadied myself….and then stepped off the ledge. Water flooded into my eyes, mouth, over my head, and suddenly I was up again, sputtering and flailing toward the metal rail in the corner. I seized hold of it and clambered up onto the last ledge again.

Carol looked at my ungainly flop and smiled sympathetically. “We’ll have to do that one over again. Your hair didn’t go all the way under.”

Strands of my hair had floated to the surface since I hadn’t sank deep enough. “Does this happen a lot?” I asked her.

She nodded. “You’re very buoyant – we all are – so what you’ll need to do is really let go and try to jump up a little when you step away from the stairs. The force of you jumping up will ensure you submerge all the way down.”

I took another deep, shuddering breath, and felt determination flow through my entire body. I hadn’t come this far to allow fear to stop me now. I thought about my father, my grandmother, about our family friend Steve Bendersky and the relatives he’d lost in the war, about the numbers tattooed on his arm, about the heritage that had been denied me. I thought about the people who had been killed over the centuries for being a Jew, about all who had walked down this path before me as converts and embraced their Jewish neshama.

I had come this far. I was ready.

It still felt scary, taking that plunge – but I no longer cared about drowning. I wanted to leap as far into that water as I could, to take it all into my heart, to let it remind me of my strength and ability to survive anything.

I was enveloped in a cocoon of blueness and warmth – the perfect heat of a womb made of nature’s own waters that seemed to have always existed in and around me. I opened my eyes underneath the water which coated every pore of my being and thought, This is the day I was born. Back then, and then again today.

No sooner did that realization hit than a force propelled me upwards – the force of my own buoyancy. I hadn’t drowned after all. In fact, I felt stronger than ever.

Carol’s voice echoed throughout the small room: “Kasher!”

I repositioned myself on the last step, filled my lungs with air, and leapt up again. I sank down into the depths of the Mikvah and didn’t fight it this time – I gave myself to it in body and soul.

When I bobbed back up, Carol called out “Kasher” for the second time.

I half-swam back toward the steps, found my balance again and turned to face the blueness. This would be my third jump. When I came back up again, I would be a Jew.

“Take your time,” Carol said softly. “If you want to take a moment to say a silent prayer – just for yourself.”

I closed my eyes and felt tears brimming behind my eyelashes. I mouthed the words of the Shema silently, for everyone before me, and then again for myself – that I be worthy of that painful, beautiful legacy and that I might contribute toward making the world a better place.

And then I took the biggest leap of my life into the waters that had always waited there for me. I lifted my knees up to my chest and spread my arms out to my sides, and the Mikvah embraced me.

And as I came up to the surface as a Jew, Carol called out for the third time, “Kasher.”

My voice shook as I spoke the words of the final prayer, Shehecheyanu, a prayer uttered by Jews for two thousand years: “Barukh Ata Adonai, Elohenu Melekh Haolam, Shehecheyanu, Vekiyimanu, Vehigiyanu, Lazman Hazeh.”

As soon as I said the last word, “hazeh”, voices all around called out “Mazel Tov!” I heard the rabbis break out into applause from the other side of the partition carved in the wall, congratulating me.

I turned around and emerged out of the water slowly, its warmth following me. Carol was beaming at me, holding out the towel. “Mazel Tov, Elisheva.”

I pitter-pattered back to the bathroom where I was shaking as I toweled off, got dressed as quickly as I could, and put in my contact lenses once again. I was too impatient to take the time needed to blow dry my long hair, and as a result I was still dripping water when I re-emerged into the little room where everyone was waiting for me.

The rabbis surrounded me and put their hands on my shoulders, breaking into song. As they sang, said their blessings and gave me all the official conversion paperwork, tears started to course down my face. They sang the old traditional Siman Tov/Shalom Aleichem song and I just folded my arms across my chest and bit my lip to unsuccessfully stop myself from crying. The oldest rabbi, probably close to eighty, wrapped his arm around my shoulders in a way a father might comfort a daughter and as he held me while I cried, I felt the warmth of his joy – I had come home.

Elisa and rabbis my menorah

Above: me with rabbis after the ceremony.  Right: a beautiful antique menorah – my conversion gift

In April 2015, a couple of years after my conversion to Judaism, I left for Romania in order to research my newest book, Remember Your Name. Because Bucharest is only a two-hour flight from Tel Aviv, I decided to make my first journey to Israel. I also fulfilled a secret wish I’d carried since my conversion – to go to the Western Wall and recite the Mourner’s Kaddish for my father.

IMG_9298 Jerusalem arches IMG_9131

It took me a lifetime to realize that my parents had been a by-product of their time – they had suffered so immensely that they had absorbed their oppression and passed it onto others. They made others suffer because that was the only way they could relate, after the pain they had endured. They hurt me because they themselves had been hurt. And then I too, as a child of their hatred, had tried my best to keep that light of hate alive – because I’d never known another way. So many scarred, wounded people have created the world we live in today, where suffering and oppression breeds brutality.

When I was in Israel, a new understanding flooded me – that my story doesn’t end with dissecting my own family’s hatred and buried identity. It doesn’t end with me converting to Judaism. I’m also digging back further into the history of hidden Jews and forced converts in Europe, and the internalization of hatred, the transformation of victim into oppressor. We see this everywhere today – oppressed becomes oppressor, persecuted people turn the brutalization they suffered into outward brutality – from the peasant workers’ 20th century revolutions that turned into communist dictatorships, to the Jewish-Arab conflict in the Middle East.

It’s all a vicious cycle. A cycle where hatred and religion-fueled intolerance supresses the spark of divine essence, the oneness, that connects all beings. A cycle of hate and judgemental intolerance so brutal that it’s pushed me toward feelings of worthlessness and thoughts of suicide for most of my adult life. Until I realized that the future of humankind doesn’t rest with governments and profit-driven policies but within us – that love is stronger than hate. Unity is stronger than division. Kindness reveals much more courage than brutality. That is where everyone’s G-d resides. In deeds of loving kindness. In recognizing our mistakes and showing forgiveness to those who harmed us. And in understanding that our differences are nothing in comparison to the beautiful light that shines within us all.

Elisa TelAviv sunset yad vashem vista

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Posted in anti-semitism, family, hate, identity, jewish, life, news, religion, romania, thoughts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

I Know What It’s Like Not To Be Believed

Posted by E on October 30, 2014

woman-gagged

In light of the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal and the burgeoning public epiphany that sometimes women don’t speak of abuse not because they’re not truthful, but because they fear ridicule, public mockery, further abuse and being disbelieved in the court of public opinion (as well as actual courts), I must write this.

Over the last six months I put aside my blog and focused on generating media interest in my book, which is based on my experiences as a teenage girl inside a domestic terrorist group spear-headed by a CSIS (Canadian Intelligence and Security Service) agent, Grant Bristow.

After releasing my book at the end of March, there was a flurry of interest, but none from traditional media outlets. I quickly discovered that if you are not published by a large press, i.e. Random House or Penguin (who I walked away from back in 2011 for various reasons), nobody will believe you.

My experiences cruelly paralleled what happened to me back in 1993 – upon a secret mandate issued by CSIS to all provincial police forces to dismiss all my signed affidavits and eyewitness evidence (discussed in a 1993 episode of The Fifth Estate), I was denied entry into the RCMP Witness Protection program and forced to go on the run for my life.

It didn’t matter then that everybody knew a CSIS agent had gone rogue and established the violent paramilitary white supremacist group you might remember as the Heritage Front.

It didn’t matter that Brian McInnis, a cabinet aide to the Attorney General who leaked an internal confidential CSIS report about said rogue agent, was dismissed from his job and charged under Canada’s insidious Official Secrets Act.

It didn’t matter that assaults, hate-mongering and even two particularly vicious sexual assaults had been connected to the Heritage Front (and many believe, to the leadership).

It didn’t matter that said rogue agent encouraged others to join the conservative Reform Party (and served as bodyguard at Reform conventions), thereby leading to the destruction of this political party when the Toronto Sun broke that violent HF members were encouraged to join Preston Manning’s Reform party as a way to sway them to the far right.

No investigation was to take place.

The rogue agent would be cleared – because to clear him was to ensure CSIS’s good name, along with the name of the agent’s handler, one connected to the RCMP intelligence unit that preceded the inception of CSIS – the same RCMP unit responsible for dirty tricks against the FLQ that included breaking into offices and blowing up barns under the guise of being “French separatists”.

Grant Bristow CSISIt didn’t matter that neo-Nazis with criminal histories were taught by this CSIS agent how to stalk and gather information against political opponents, how to harass and threaten them over the telephone and even in person with impunity, while at the same time gathering a seemingly-endless cache of weapons to be used in what they believed was an impending Race War.

It didn’t matter that my credibility on the witness stand had already been established after my testimony was crucial to the convictions of three prominent Heritage Front leaders back in 1993.

In the end, I was just an impoverished, homeless, abused eighteen-year old girl and they….well, they were CSIS.

I was a nobody, and Grant Bristow was deemed enough of a hero to receive a standing ovation at a Toronto synagogue after an event hosted by the Canadian Jewish Congress – albeit they were among the same people who were targeted for attacks by violent skinheads and neo-Nazis who looked up to Grant Bristow, who worshipped him as their hero.

Although I was a lesbian, although my father was Jewish, although I sent three neo-Nazis to prison, I was not credible enough for ANY police division in Canada to open an investigation.

I was worthless.

I was a nobody.

Scores of weapons ranging from automatic rifles to M16s are still on the street because nobody bothered to sign off on a warrant to raid premises that stored illegal weapons intended for future terrorist actions.

But here we are, exactly twenty years later, and I have a book in my hands that details everything I saw and accounted for in my affidavits.

Hategan articleI thought the media were my friends. Upon the advice of my former lawyer Paul Copeland, I contacted various prominent members of the media, including Linden MacIntyre (before his retirement) – who I presume didn’t think much of my heartfelt plea to discuss the events I had witnessed, because he didn’t grace me with a single acknowledgement message.

I sent a message to a woman who had filmed a documentary about me for It’s About Time, a Vision TV program where she had worked before she climbed up the media ladder and eventually became DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING AT THE CBC. She had been one of the few people concerned about me, back in the day. Or so I thought, because of the care she took during my interview in the 1990s. Then again, back then she was a hungry, inquisitive recent film school grad with a vested interest in doing the right thing, not Director of Programming at the CBC. She hadn’t rubbed elbows with the elites yet, she hadn’t had a taste of what Canadian media is really like.

She assured me that she would send my manuscript and story throughout the ranks of the CBC – Canada’s taxpayer-funded Broadcasting Corporation. Surely someone there might be interested in speaking with me, even for a mere sound bite, in light of all the controversial CSIS operations in the Muslim community (where people with questionable guilt and motives are pushed into illegal actions by people who cannot, in good conscience, be described by any words other than agent provocateurs).

NOBODY bothered to contact me again.

FINALLY, I heard from a journalist at the Globe & Mail who is very familiar with political columns and often writes articles about the over-reaching grasp of our country’s shadowy intelligence agency.

We met for coffee in the Annex and had a conversation which lasted over an hour. He was interested, even flabbergasted, by what I had seen. And then came the punchline – when he asked me if the book was self-published. When I told him it was, it was clear that his mood had shifted.

Somehow, by the sheer fact that someone like Random House wasn’t behind me, he was never going to cover the story. In fact, it seemed like he lost interest and questioned whether what I had told him was in fact, factual.

I am used to being disbelieved by the police, but it was a first – to encounter this from people who are entrusted with impartiality.

It was in that moment when I experienced a visceral sense of deja-vu – the sensation of feeling like no matter what I said, or did, that nobody would believe me. That I was worthless. That I was a whore who was doing this for attention.

I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. I felt exactly as I did when Wolfgang Droege, leader of the Heritage Front and best buddy of Grant Bristow, hit on me when I was sixteen, and when a knife was held up to my neck and I was threatened with death on suspicions of turning against them.

Yes, I know what it’s like to be treated like a rape victim. I know what rape feels like, and I know what it’s like to be alone in the world, to feel ashamed and dirty when everybody around you prefers to look the other way.

Back in the 1990s, I possessed enough information to send at least ten Heritage Front and Northern Hammerskins individuals to jail. Probably more, but it hurts too much to start thinking about all the What Ifs. Aside from learning how to hack into telephone systems and how to push people to the brink of suicide, I was taught another important lesson by CSIS – that the weight of truth depends on the perceived worth of those who speak it.

To the OPP and RCMP officers who had been advised by CSIS to disregard my statements, the intrinsic value of my evidence was judged by my worth as a human being – and as an abused, impoverished teenage girl with no education, family or powerful clique of good old CSIS boys to back me up, what I had to say meant absolutely nothing.

Thanks to Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service, millions of dollars were sank into ugly, bottomless pit that was Operation Governor. Falsehoods were spun to assert that Bristow had somehow “prevented” crime from happening, though the fabrications included in the SIRC Report tell us just how much their words are worth. And when I brought real, concrete evidence forth to prosecute dangerous individuals, they buried it.

And yet somehow, being that it is 2014 and I am a university-graduate and professional writer, I never expected this treatment from the supposedly-liberal, “bleeding-hearted” media. From journalists who work for the CBC and Globe & Mail. From people who are not supposed to make you feel like garbage for TELLING THE TRUTH.

But then I think, they too must be scared. Scared to offend, to push the wrong buttons, to stick up for someone who was victimized.

Not when the men in question are powerful. Not when the victim is a teenager, a piece of trash. Not when our government has bought an agent’s silence with a quarter million dollars.

And not when a book is self-published.

 

For further research, I have an extensive media library and traditional press documentation available to anyone interested in what really happened in Canada during the early 1990s: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/race-traitor-reference-media-library/ 

http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00JA05FYM

Posted in abuse, canada, cbc, crime, csis, globe & mail, jewish, racism, rape, terrorism, truth, victim | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Colonia Dignidad – An Experiment in Terror and Behavior Modification

Posted by E on April 18, 2016

Emma Watson Colonia

If you’re planning to see the new Emma Watson film Colonia, please don’t watch the trailer first. Punctuated by the groan-inducing line “When they took her man”, this has to be one of the worst trailers I’ve ever seen. Its weakness resides in the fact that they take an empowered, arguably feminist main character and make her out to look like a desperate flower, someone who cannot survive unless she finds “her man”. But since I’ve just told you not to think of a pink elephant and piqued your curiosity, here’s the trailer so you can see for yourself:

Hollywood is no stranger to using contrived romances that push the boundaries of cheese in order to serve up an important social or political event as backdrop. Think the fictitious, ill-fated romance of Jack and Rose to showcase the spectacular sinkability of the most unsinkable ships of all, the Titanic. But there’s a fine line between using romance to build up a film and gratuitous humping, and that line was blurred for the first 12 minutes of Colonia, as Lena and Daniel went at each other worse than the cats in heat outside my place at night. Fighting against the urge to hurl a glass of cold water at the screen and shout “Break it up already!”, I gritted my teeth and stuck it out. (Am I showing my age here or what?) Oh, and to all of you asking on YouTube if Emma gets nude in this flick, sorry to disappoint.

It took a while for the movie to get better. It didn’t help that the main characters’ downfall begins with a series of utterly idiotic moves. Hey – there’s a violent riot outside! Let me grab my camera, run right up to cops in combat gear and shoot photos of them beating up people! No way are they going to kick my head in or beat up my girlfriend! Oh, and just keep standing in the front row at prisoner roll-call when the wiser move would be to blend at the back of the crowd and hope you won’t get noticed, especially since you’re a political activist and agitator.

But alas, after the lovebirds (or cats in heat, depending on your perspective) get separated, Emma Watson’s Lena sacrifices herself by travelling to Colonia Dignidad in an attempt to infiltrate them. Note: I’m not spoiling the movie here since the trailer basically gives it all away.

Without any solid proof that her boyfriend is still alive or even at Colonia anymore, Lena stays for an unbelievable 130 days working slave labour in scorching fields, spending long days without any water, being beaten up by a matronly, sadistic female camp guard. By then, anybody in their right mind would’ve left already or at least made serious attempts to fly that coop. Instead, Lena purposefully – or shall I say masochistically – manoeuvres to get beaten up (and potentially murdered) at the men’s gathering in a fleeting attempt to see if Daniel is among them.

Colonia movie Emma Watson

OK, so reading this far in my review you might think I really hated it, but you’d be wrong. In truth, Colonia isn’t bad at all (though it had potential to be even better). Its strength lies in the second half, the part that is based on fact rather than fiction – when the full horror of the camp begins to unfold. The brainwashed residents, the hard labour, the dirndls and Eva Braun-type of bun-braids, the children wearing lederhosen who are separated and isolated from their families and grow up not knowing who their parents are.

This was a gripping film with amazing cinematography and a very effective build-up of tension. These days, you practically have to make a deal with the devil in order to shine a spotlight on an issue everybody would otherwise have ignored – the devil in this case being the Harry Potter brand incarnated in Emma Watson, who I should say did a great job with what she was given. The harrowing ending was particularly intense and well-executed.

I’ve always believed that the true mark of a good movie is the lasting impression it has on you – how long it stays in your mind after you’ve left the theatre. Also, that it should teach you something you didn’t know before. This movie checks both these all-important boxes: it lingers with you as well as makes you think and want to learn more, which makes it a success.

I am grateful that it got made, despite the contrived love story and the fact that these days you can’t make a film about an important issue or historical event without the backing of a Hollywood A-lister. In this day and age, being a “celebrity” (i.e. someone who reads lines written by others and performs on cue, like a trained seal) has more weight than the scientists silently toiling away in labs across the world to discover the cure for cancer or dementia. But I digress.

THE TRUE STORY BEHIND THE FILM

colonia-dignidadAlthough I’m fairly familiar with the history of the ex-Nazi diaspora and the communities they established across South America, particularly in Argentina and Brazil, I hadn’t heard about Colonia Dignidad before I watched the film. Now called Villa Baviera (Bavarian Village), in its heyday (and under the leadership of Nazi psychopath Paul Schafer) it was home to hundreds of residents. The 137 km property was surrounded by barbed wire fences, searchlights and a watchtower, and was full of weapon caches and explosives, serving as an impromptu prison for political dissidents brought there by Augusto Pinochet‘s DINA, the Chilean Secret Police.

My immediate thoughts after the movie (and my gut impression) was that there had to be more to Colonia Dignidad beyond providing a means for ex-Luftwaffe officer Paul Schafer‘s cold-blooded sadism and his sexual abuse of children. I know Wikipedia says it’s considered to be a cult of some sort, but this was (and possibly still is) more than just a cult.

Certainly this is evident in the German government’s tacit approval of Schafer’s methodologies, his connections with people high up in the German embassy, as well as deep roots within Pinochet’s secret police. A man who is simply an egomaniac pedophile wouldn’t have this sort of clout. No, there had to be much more to this place for him to get away with all that he did.

It seems to me that Colonia was both a continuation of the concentration camp model, as well as an experiment in behaviour modification – both at the macro and the micro level. Prisoners were brought in and were never seen again. It’s clear that torture happened, but given the cultish obedience and knee-jerk reflex of fear instilled in the residents, the colony may have been a living laboratory in mind control.

Colonia Dignidad Villa Baviera originalI don’t like to throw words like “mind control” around lightly, because there are far too many nutcases and conspiracy theorists like the folks who hang out on Godlike Productions and think a secret brotherhood of shape-shifting reptiles rules the world. The term “mind control” is synonymous with all sorts of crazy, despite the fact that there’s no denying the truth behind Operation Paperclip and the experiments that were carried out both in the West and behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War years.

Don’t believe me? You don’t have to – both the CIA and Simon Wiesenthal have presented evidence that shows Josef Mengele had resided at the colony for some time in the 1960s. Mengele was just one of several other high-profile Nazis to have stayed there, the other being Martin Bormann, once the highest ranking Nazi in the world after Adolf Hitler. According to historian Ladislas Farago, Bormann lived for a period of time in seclusion at Colonia Dignidad, having “sought a place where he could be at peace.”

There is something sinister about Colonia Dignidad that leads me to believe this was a place where behavior modification experiments happened, if only because the doctrine was rooted in brainwashing of its residents and because medications were often administered, along with severe forms of punishment. But it was also connected with the disappearance of political prisoners who were transported there and were never seen again.

Boris WeisfeilerI think there is more than meets the eye because of the length of time – decades – that Schafer and his goons were able to operate with immunity. Even after Boris Weisfeiler, a Russian-born American mathematician, disappeared and was believed to be murdered by Colonia residents, it took until 2012 (and after Schafer’s death) for a judge to call an indictment against eight retired cops and others involved with the disappearance.

And just one month before the movie Colonia was released, Weisfeiler’s case was deemed a “common crime” whose statute of limitations had passed, and was officially closed.

It’s not difficult to speculate as to the reason why.

Pinochet ruled as dictator of Chile until 1990, but remained the army’s Commander-in-Chief until 1998. The 1970s, 80s and 90s were not that long ago. Many of the officers involved in Pinochet’s regime are well-established men now, men whose power likely still extends all the way up to Chile’s current government. Clearly, there are too many who might have something to lose if the facts behind Colonia Dignidad come out, and they will do everything in their power to sweep the truth under the carpet.

Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Chile

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Become a Patron and Make a Difference

Posted by E on March 22, 2016

green valleys red tree

I really need your help, folks. As a rule of thumb I don’t like to depend on others’ generosity and I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t absolutely crucial. But honestly, it is.

The first and last time I begged for spare change was a year ago, in order to finance my research trip to Eastern Europe. My crowdfunding efforts and book project were publicized in a front-page section of the Toronto Star on May 5, 2015. I managed to generate approx. $2000 through private and online donations, which was enough to pay for my flight and most of my rental accommodations in Bucharest. However, while working on the book I experienced a major depressive episode which was worsened by my mother’s death in December.

Researching in Romania, 2015

Researching in Romania, 2015

I’ve found it extremely difficult to work on my manuscript, which is all kinds of awful since it involves stripping away layers of multi-generational pain and heartache in my family. It didn’t help that my research into my father’s Securitate archives in Bucharest this past spring led me on a path toward discovering that my father had actually been killed by Ceausescu’s secret police.

In January I ended up in hospital after a suicide attempt, and my road to recovery has been rocky. To put it bluntly, I’ve found it extremely difficult to see a point for my life, for the traumas my parents went through…. I know we all feel like this sometimes, but I honestly didn’t see a purpose to my existence; I didn’t feel that anybody would care whether I lived or died.

An acute example of this manifested in the weeks right after my mother died – two of my closest friends didn’t care enough to phone me in person and see if I was okay. It was a brutal thing to discover – that people I really cared about, who I’d helped generate thousands of dollars in grants and helped immensely in the past – people who I thought cared about me also – seemed more interested in posting selfies of themselves in new outfits than in sending a single message of condolence. However, in the last couple of months I have come to realize that it was a blessing in disguise – it’s only at hard times that you discover who your real friends are.

I won’t deny it; it’s been awful trying to understand the roots of cruelty – whether the source of my parents’ childhood traumas or my own, or even to understand indifference and lack of empathy in people who I thought were good friends. And then there’s the issue of figuring out how to get out of bed in the morning. Believe me when I say that trying to self-motivate yourself after a suicide attempt, when you don’t see any value in your own existence, much less in your own work, is one of the hardest things in the world.

But recently I’ve stumbled onto a new means of both inspiring AND supporting myself while writing – by surrounding myself with people who actually want to be part of my artistic process. People who care about contributing to the arts, even if it’s with a single dollar every month. So this week I set up a new crowdfunding site on Patreon.com and I hope that I can connect with new people who will be my new family.

My Patrons are the family I never had – a family that supports and sustains me through the process of creating writing that aims to make a difference. I need each and every one of you, and everything I create is dedicated to you. Please support me by becoming an Arts Patron and make a difference.

Those who know me are aware of how badly I was exploited as a teenage girl – first by a radical homegrown terrorist group called the Heritage Front, and afterwards by Canada’s own CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Network), who exploited my story as a teenage kid and stole my identity for a 1998 film called White Lies, which starred Road to Avonlea’s Sarah Polley. While I lived in hiding after sending white supremacists to prison, dumpster-diving for survival, CBC producers were enjoying the limelight and financial benefits, along with Emmy and Gemini nominations, for a movie that wouldn’t have existed without my suffering.

I’ve never had any breaks in life, and I don’t say this because I expect any sympathy, because I’ve seldom received it. I am only stating a fact – that I need every single one of you because I have no family or fallback options. I put myself through university and graduated Magna cum Laude, I published in prestigious literary journals without knowing the editors, I won every award I’ve ever received with sweat and hard work, without any connections. I have nothing at all but my mind and my writing.

I ask only for a $5 donation every month, and you will be first to know about new books and artistic projects I’m involved in. I will give you an advance copy of every new book I create, and my promise that I will continually work on producing writing that aims to make a difference in the world.

Little-Match-Girl-Illustration-By-Rachel-IsadorI appreciate any contribution, no matter how big or how small. You can donate any amount you feel like. Even $1.00 can make a difference, if enough people contribute.

In centuries past, artists depended on the generosity of strangers and art patrons to fund their creative processes – and although we might live in the 21st century, little has changed. The Arts is still a field marked by poverty and uncertainty – most of the time you don’t know where your next funding source will come from. Often you don’t even know if people appreciate what you are trying to do until the work is out there.

But in those dark, rainy days where you are alone with your doubts and your demons (and those bills that need to get paid), it sure would help to know that someone out there cares about your work.

PLEASE consider being a part of my life. Help me find the inspiration I need by letting me know that others see value in my art. Please tell me that my work matters.

Please help me by becoming a Patron.

Posted in art, grief, inspiration, romania, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Introducing My Newest Book: DAUGHTERS OF THE AIR

Posted by E on March 7, 2016

Daughters of the Air Adele coverI am happy and proud to announce the release of my newest book, Daughters of the Air – A Retelling of The Little Mermaid, a literary novel that incorporates the tragic story of Adele Hugo and involves love, madness, reincarnation and obsession across two centuries.

Incognito Press has released the novel in digital format only, but you can purchase it even if you don’t own a Kindle – just download Amazon’s free Kindle App on your iPad or iPhone and you can read it today.

You can also find it on Amazon Canada, Amazon.com and all its international affiliates.

I ask all readers, friends and supporters to consider purchasing a copy, even if this book is different from my previous non-fiction work. I really need your support, both emotional and financial (via sales) and word-of-mouth in order to continue bringing you new books in the future. Your help is absolutely crucial to my journey as a writer.

Book Description

Paris, 2015: Walking along the banks of the Seine, twenty-four year old Darya Eliade, a young woman spending the summer abroad after the death of her father, stumbles upon a photograph of Adele Hugo, the forgotten daughter of France’s greatest author.

Haunted by the sadness she sees in Adele’s eyes, Darya becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her, setting in motion a journey of self-discovery into her own past as a radical political activist.

With the help of Jeanne, a mysterious Spanish journalist, Darya’s search for the root of heartbreak will track the Hugos’ movements from Paris to the Channel Islands, from spiritualist séances to the austere coastlines of Nova Scotia.

Guernsey, 1854: Eager to escape the oppressive regime of her famous father, twenty-four year old Adele Hugo begins a passionate affair with a young English lieutenant, Albert Pinson.

Over the next ten years their affair will spiral into madness and tragedy, as Adele’s idealistic pursuit of true love will stop at nothing to fulfill itself. Against a backdrop of occult and political insurgence, Adele plots how she will capture the heart of a man who despises her.

Spanning three timelines, two continents and incorporating the fairytale storyline of The Little Mermaid, Daughters of the Air is a meditation on the nature of love and all its unrestrained expressions: sacrifice, obsession, destruction and redemption. The novel brings together the concepts of reincarnation, fate and love to uncover a secret buried for two centuries.

Posted in literature, press release, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DNA and Disease: Would You Want to Know?

Posted by E on February 23, 2016

DNA-image dna evolution

We are the first generation to be exposed to DNA testing for disease, and simultaneously the last generation to be afforded the luxury of not knowing what lies ahead. I predict that the debate of “Know or Not to Know” will end within a generation. The incorporation of genetic profiling in our medical history will become standard practice, as ubiquitous to medicine as a blood test. And this is a good thing – something we should welcome rather than fear.

So many annual deaths due to medication counter-indications and allergic reactions can be avoided. People with high blood pressure and other chronic conditions will no longer have to go through the stress and financial cost of sampling half a dozen prescriptions and trying out different pill cocktails before they find the right one for them – their own body’s genetic sensitivity to some drugs versus others will determine the right SSRI, the perfect hormone or blood pressure pill.

Prescriptions will no longer be not decided by a physician who has their own biases and pharmaceutical preferences, but by what your own body will respond to. This isn’t something to fear, a dystopian, clinical Gattaca scenario where our future potentials are determined in utero – but has the potential to eliminate diseases with gene therapy from infancy or even during gestation.

23andme DNA testing kitMaybe I’m biased, because few of us can claim to be entirely impartial when it comes to something so intimate as your body’s intricate signature and potential disease patterns. Some might think all the information will end up in a government database where “they” will keep track of everything and everyone. But guess what? That’s already happening, and so you may as well benefit from these modern-day advances in genetic screening and disease prevention.

I’m biased because I was one of the lucky ones to order a 23andme DNA kit before the FDA stepped and attempted to shut down the lab, or at least prevent them from informing people about their own medical predispositions. What 23andme offers now is still invaluable information, at least when it comes to familial and ancestral histories, but a watered-down medical report that differs to a certain degree from those kits processed before 2014.

family-tree dnaIn the winter of 2012 I ordered my kit mainly because I wanted to confirm my father’s genetic and ancestral history. For most of my life, I knew nothing about his background. I had only recently learned that he was Jewish, but because he had been born out of wedlock and my grandmother was rejected by my grandfather’s family, that side of my family tree was completely unknown to me – inclusive of their medical history. And since my father died when I was 13, I couldn’t ask him any of the questions I needed to know. Searching for those answers within my blood became a desperate, last-ditch resort to find out the truth.

I bought a kit for myself and for my mother. By isolating at least one living parent’s DNA from mine, 23andme can perform an analysis of phasing against a parent and child, and identify which DNA was my mother’s and which – through exclusion – had to come from my father.

When the results came in, they confirmed my Jewish ancestry and exposed my roots as having extended all over Europe – as far as Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Germany, and basically mirrored the migration of Jews across Europe in the last 500 years. But beside finally learning about my family history, I now discovered a surprising amount of information about my own medical predispositions.

To Know or Not to Know – That is the Question.

DNA-ManEach of us carries a few damaged genes, a twist in a chain, a mutation passed on from an ancestor we never knew but whose blood flows in our veins. Usually bad genes are recessive, meaning people typically don’t find out they are carriers until they manifest in their children. But once genetic testing becomes widespread, and this is only a matter of time, we will all learn our own secret weaknesses.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to this question: the “Knowledge is Power – I have to know” camp and the “If it’s going to happen anyway, I’d rather not spend my life worrying about death” folks.

Neither position is right or wrong, since it’s up to you to decide what you want to discover about your body and its genetic potential. If you’re a worrier and planner, like me, knowing might relieve you of the stress of not knowing and constantly stressing about what might never actually happen.

But if you wish to live in the present and not concern yourself with something that may never happen, that is also a fair decision – especially since just having a genetic mutation does not absolutely guarantee you’ll develop the disease. Toxins in the environment, diet, nurture and lifestyle play a huge part in the onset of so many diseases.

The CONS of finding out your medical history are obvious:

– “There’s nothing I can do about it,” many people have said. “There is no drug or diet that keeps XYZ from progressing. Nor is there any way of knowing whether that progression would end relatively early, in my 40s, or relatively late, in my 80s, when I might already have died of something else.”

– Stress and depression. For example, some women who get abnormal breast cancer test results can trigger anxiety, depression or anger. Even though the results doesn’t mean that a woman will definitely get breast cancer, many women with an abnormal gene assume they will.

– People who learn they have passed on an abnormal gene to their children may feel guilty and worried. (Yet such knowledge may also prepare them for helping their children cope with their genetic information.)

– Some people fear that they could face discrimination in getting insurance coverage or employment. This fear is no longer an issue since, to prevent any such discrimination, the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law in 2008 to protect Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information.

The PROS are equally compelling:

– Knowledge is power; being proactive in disease prevention.

– It allows you to begin making dietary and lifestyle changes early in life. If for instance you carry the diabetes variant, you can start exercising, cutting out sugars and monitoring your health better. If you carry the Alzheimer’s variant, you can start mental exercises, doing crossword puzzles, and playing basic computer games that are designed to sharpen your brain’s neural pathways.

– It eliminates unnecessary testing – precious time can be wasted in trying to diagnose people who might suffer from symptoms that could be applicable to several diseases. Alternately, you might constantly go for X-rays and tests thinking you might have cancer because of a family history, when in reality you are not a carrier of that genetic mutation.

– It allows you to take part in early medication programs – just this week I read an article discussing new, potentially life-changing Alzheimer’s prevention drugs that can be taken from your 30s and 40s and will delay or potentially prevent the disease from ever manifesting.

MY RESULTS

23andme breaks down your genotyped results into categories that include Inherited Conditions, Traits, Health Risks and Drug Response.

When I received the email from 23andme stating that my results were ready, I held my breath as I opened the Health Overview tab. In the Drug Response category, I learned that I was sensitive to medicines like Warfarin, and that if (God forbid) I would ever catch malaria, I would likely not respond well to treatment (mental note: don’t ever catch malaria!) I also learned that both myself and my mother had lower odds of responding to the most commonly-prescribed diabetes medicine – a very serious factor given that she had diabetes and it always seemed out of control.

In the Traits category, some of the things I learned were that I had brown hair (correct) and a 10% of having inherited blonde hair (from my mother). I was a fast caffeine metabolizer (which explains why I need more than one cup of coffee a day or I’ll be entirely unproductive) and likely lactose intolerant (yup). I also have a sensitivity to bitter taste and am likely to hate cilantro/coriander. So absolutely true!

I also learned that my eyes were likely to be brown and my hair most likely wavy/curly. Of course I know all these things just by looking in the mirror, but it’s so much fun to see the results get computed from a small vial of saliva and the Illumina HumanOmniExpress-24 format chip.

Although 23andme doesn’t carry out a comprehensive test for all diseases or the entire human genome (that would be cost-prohibitive), I found out that I didn’t carry the gene associated with Parkinson’s or MS – actually, I had significantly lower odds of developing those diseases. I also found out that I didn’t have the BRCA 1 and 2 cancer mutations that are linked with the type of cancers that made Angelina Jolie choose to have a double mastectomy and later on, have her ovaries removed.

alzheimers diseaseBut there was one issue that gave me anxiety above all else: my maternal grandmother had died of Alzheimer’s dementia, and my mother had been going downhill and would become diagnosed with Alzheimer’s later that same year, in 2013.

For the last decade I lived with the fear and uncertainty that I would also, someday, develop Alzheimer’s disease. Seeing its ravages on my mother, I swore that I would end my life early, or at least make provisions while I was still of sound mind for when the disease might strike in me. Being a pessimist, I was convinced that I carried the genetic variant most commonly associated with Alzheimer’s, APOE-4.

And yet there was no question in my mind that I had to know. Either way, since a part of my subconscious already thought I was doomed, if there was a possibility that I was NOT a carrier I could be free of that fear – bearing in mind, of course, that there are other variants that also play into the development of dementia. But APOE-4 was (and still is) the biggest predictor in those with a family history of the disease.

Elisa Alzheimers riskAnd then the moment came for me to click on the Alzheimer’s link. A rather ominous box appeared, asking if I was really sure that I wanted to find out, because some may find the results upsetting. I clicked the yes button and then I saw my fate: I did NOT have the APOE-4 variant. Not only that, but I carried a different gene mutation that actually protected me by reducing my risk for dementia to below the population average.

 

Then I clicked on my mother’s results and there it was – in front of my eyes, what I’d known all along – she WAS a carrier of APOE-4. This is what’s likely to have contributed to her early onset dementia. And only by the grace of God or the universe, or whatever there is out there beyond this world, she had not passed it onto me.

Lucia Alzheimers risk

Chances are, most of you who are reading this know someone who has Alzheimer’s. I’ve had friends and acquaintances whose parents and grandparents are continually suffering from this terrible disease. But not many people my age (unless they work in the medical field) have seen the utter devastation of end-stage Alzheimer’s.

Lucia July31My mother’s dying process took almost a year. In that time, I began to grieve her loss – but none of my close friends understood why I was in mourning. They didn’t understand that dementia is a daily, gradual death by a thousand cuts. With each day, a nuance of the individual fades away. People didn’t understand when I said that she was gone – because technically she was still alive.

But week after week, the human being faded to the point that all that became was a shell – a person with the same DNA, but a body vacant of its spirit. She was only 70 years old, but early onset Alzheimer’s has taken whatever had remained of her. She died a few months after she’d turned 71, on December 2, 2015.

I remember a year earlier, sitting in her apartment and saying sadly, “Someday you will forget me. The same way you forgot all your relatives and your street address and how to use public transport. Someday you’ll forget me too.”

She’d looked at me with a great big smile and shook her head. “Oh no. I’ll never forget you. You are my child – I’ll never forget you. Not you.”

And in the end, she kept that promise. A year later she was in hospital and had forgotten how to go to the toilet, how to eat, even how to chew and swallow. She cried, clawed at and fought with all the nurses, and with me, when we tried to feed her. She thought we were trying to choke her – because she didn’t know what to do with the food in her mouth. It dribbled down her hospital gown. She choked and sputtered, and I kept trying to teach her how to chew, how to swallow, to no avail.

Cu MamaBut through it all, she still remembered me – only me. And she still remembered her own name. I am fortunate for this, because I was the only person who could communicate with her. She had forgotten all English words and could barely communicate in Romanian – she knew perhaps only 20 Romanian words, at best. But she had kept her promise.

Tears are streaming down my face as I am typing this, because I don’t know how to deal with this – how to cope, how to explain the horror and sadness that descended over me the evening of December 2nd, 2015, when – in a softly-lit private room at Mount Sinai Hospital – I held her hands for hours and told her that I loved her, and that she was going to be free soon, that it was okay to let go. And then her breathing went from laboured and hoarse to soft, and then it stopped. And I just held her in my arms and cried and cried and cried.

Knowledge is power. I would always want to know. And I feel so strongly about the FDA and other pharmaceutical bodies trying to shut down sites like 23andme because they would rather bill insurance companies thousands of dollars per genetic test (in North America, the BRCA test costs an average of $2000-$3000) than give people free access to their own genetic history.

dna testingYou could call me a DNA activist. This is my body, and my absolute right to know its predispositions. If for whatever reason you don’t want to know, or you don’t trust independent labs like 23andme, that’s perfectly fine – just don’t get tested. But please don’t interpret the FDA’s moves as anything but a money grab for Big Pharma.

Genetic testing will be the future of disease screening, and the pharmaceutical industry would rather charge you (or your health care system) thousands than have you know your predisposition to 200 diseases for the lowly price of $99. Only a year later, the FDA shut down people’s most affordable way of finding out about their bodies.

Our bodies belong to US – NOT to a corporation. The results are OURS – not the FDA’s to monetize. My mother might have died, but I still have her genetic information and her saliva results will remain in the databank for ten years, allowing for further testing as medical screening improves.

Three years ago, my family members and I received ALL those results (potential cancers, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, medication sensitivities and more (over 300 genetic disease potentials, as well as our ethnic heritage) for only $99 per kit. For just one hundred dollars, I discovered my poor mother had the APOE Alzheimer’s gene (like her mother did before her) while I did NOT.

It was like being released from a death sentence.

For this, I will always be grateful.

sadness heart tree

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How Someone Called the Police because I “Stole” her Twitter Username

Posted by E on February 22, 2016

pink typewriter

Imagine that you have an internet username that you’ve been using for a long time – say, BettyBoop1977. You have a Twitter account, maybe a Facebook profile or page in that name. You might even have started a blog or site under that handle with one of the popular free sites like Blogger, WordPress, Weebly or Tumblr. Everyone in your circle (let’s say, a few dozen people) knows you by that handle. You have your own personal brand, right?

design-branding chalkboardWrong. You couldn’t be more wrong about that. Brand ownership does not start and end with getting BettyBoop77 as your Twitter username. Sadly, too many amateurs in the social media arena don’t give a lot of thought into building a brand that they themselves own, as opposed to having a free, hosted domain with another company’s extension.

Putting aside the fact that Facebook pages and WordPress accounts are owned by another provider – who often places ads under your intellectual property, your page can disappear at any moment. Your account can be suspended or hacked. The design or template you’re using could be scrapped on a dime, and you could lose hundreds of followers at the snap of a finger.

But the issue of who hosts your blog should be your secondary concern. Your primary objective – if you are entirely confident in your brand and intend to build it to the point where it can be monetized or even resold – is to secure BettyBoop1977 as more than a twitter handle. You’ll want to buy the domain name, but even then it might not be enough.

What if, one day, you get a phone call from the police after someone feels you criminally harassed them because you “stole her highly unique brand name”?

I know it seems like an insane situation, but this is exactly what happened to me last month.

BRANDING Lesson 101: Branding, Copyright and Social Media

I’m writing this piece because I am not the only person on the internet using the handle “TheLizBuzz”. I was recently informed – by a Metro Toronto police officer, no less – that a certain individual had complained to them that I had stolen her “highly unique” brand after I registered the domain www.thelizbuzz.com.

After giving this insanity a lot of thought, I’ve decided to write about my experience as part of my Artists’ Guide to Social Media Series, and as a warning to anybody who might encounter individuals who may be delusional enough to believe that someone who has “stolen” their Twitter or Instagram username and turned it into a new website – should be arrested and prosecuted for having committed a criminal offense. It’s tantamount to a chat-room spat – say, being called a “bitch,” “asshole” or “whore” on social media and contacting police because your feelings were hurt. Can you imagine how the courts would be inundated with frivolous, idiotic prosecutions because of name-calling, or because buying someone’s online username as your domain has “hurt their brand”?

FearlessOf course her criminal complaint went nowhere because I had done nothing wrong, but that’s not the point. The experience taught me an important lesson, and one that I’d like to impart with you guys. As someone who has had the unfortunate experience to explain to a (very understanding, I should add) police officer that branding (or even domain squatting or copyright violations) are not of themselves indictable offences under the Criminal Code of Canada – I thought I should set the record straight, once and for all.

At the time I registered the www.thelizbuzz.com domain (back in late August/September 2015), a Google search revealed this Ontario-based individual (who has an almost identical first name to mine) was using the nickname “thelizbuzz” on only three sites – Twitter, WordPress and Instagram. Perhaps she might have had other accounts, but I only found those three. She was a consultant with a two-year degree in social media from George Brown College, but had never – even after getting her certificate – thought to fork over the $11 that it cost me to register the domain thelizbuzz.com. How serious could she have been about branding if she – a certified and newly-minted social media grad – couldn’t even think to buy her own domain name?

To my knowledge and limited online sleuthing, the url www.thelizbuzz.com in of itself, or its .ca extension, had never been registered. And since buying a url that might have been used as someone’s Twitter handle isn’t illegal in Canada yet (lol), I didn’t think twice about it.

My Romanian name is Eliza, and I quite liked the catchiness of TheLizBuzz as a new consulting business for myself, an offshoot of my small publishing venture, Incognito Press. Unfortunately I also happened to know Liz, the person who was using that nickname, and at one point we had been friends – but our friendship broke up last year over another serious matter.

In the seven months that followed our “breakup”, I realized that she hadn’t taken any active steps toward actually buying, incorporating or monetizing the brand. It was just a matter of time before someone else would snatch up that domain, so why couldn’t that somebody be me?

Ok, perhaps it was in poor taste for me to “borrow” Liz’s Twitter username (which didn’t even have very many followers) and start branding it under my own name, but I didn’t feel too bad about it either since she hadn’t done anything to monetize it – so I spent $11 and bought the url thelizbuzz.com with the express intent of marketing it as my new brand. There is absolutely nothing illegal about that.

In September 2015 I registered www.thelizbuzz.com as my new arts and social media consulting site. I thought about registering for an Ontario Business License at the time, but I didn’t have the $60 for the registration. I then started a new blog with a social media theme, thelizbuzz.blogspot.com.

Although Liz had my telephone number and email address, not once in the following five months did she ever contact me to express that she wanted the domain for herself – or that she had any problem whatsoever with me developing that brand, even after I emailed her to inform her about it. I would gladly have sold the domain back to her for the same $11 I paid for it, but she never said a thing and so I proceeded to develop the brand and a new website.

In fact, I had absolutely no clue that she was pissed off until I heard that she had gone to the police.

It was only after the insanity of hearing from the police officer (in January 2016) that I had stolen this other Liz’s “highly unique” social media brand (i.e. Twitter username) that I decided to – once and for all – do a proper search for her alleged business proprietorship and clear up my name.

I don’t deny that we are two women who are in the same field – we are both social media strategists and content creators – and we both live in the Toronto area. I don’t deny that we share a similar and very controversial history, and that we are also competitors in our social media businesses.

However, deciding to develop “TheLizBuzz” as my new brand is not illegal either – it’s called capitalism. Perhaps Liz hadn’t heard of the concept – or didn’t care enough to develop it herself. God knows she’d had enough years to do it.

I would soon discover that the domain and handle “thelizbuzz” had NEVER been registered either as a domain OR as a business in Ontario. I went ahead and spent approx. $10 to do a business search on the government business site, and lo and behold – NOBODY had ever registered thelizbuzz as a business.

Here’s the official form from the government website which attests that as of January 15, 2016 there was “NO MATCH FOUND” in the business directory database. Virtual proof that I had NOT stolen anybody’s branding or consulting business.

thelizbuzz no match found

So for all the stress I went through and the negative things said about me behind my back, it turns out that the police complainant, Liz, had only used a Twitter username and a WordPress blog with approx. nine entries written over the span of two years – hardly enough to establish that I had stolen her “intellectual property” and copyright.

As someone who has experienced severe PTSD after my experiences with CSIS and police as a teenager (and after exposing a Metro Toronto cop who was a Heritage Front member in the 1990s and a KKK rally participant), I tend to go right into panic attacks when police is involved. This is despite having several friends in different police departments in Ontario – but Metro Police in particular freaks me out because of what I know about their history. And after the lies that were said about me, the stress I experienced (only a month after my mother’s death) contributed to my January suicide attempt and brief hospitalization.

As a freelance writer and artist, I don’t have the money to sue this woman for emotional distress or what I see as an overt attempt at malicious prosecution. I can’t sue someone just for having stalked my website, blog and social media networks with a frightening consistency and sense of entitlement for the past year.

After several death threats from psycho racists in the past (my memoir Race Traitor was an exposé of the Canadian white supremacist movement), I had IP trackers installed on all my blogs and websites. This enabled me to now track Liz’s IP (and VPNs) and see it show up continuously, sometimes as much as several times a day for weeks and months on end. The obsessive nature of the continual visits started to trigger major anxiety and affect my work – until I decided that I wouldn’t allow anybody to take away my power.

Not anymore.

But what I CAN do – both for myself and my readers – is to advise that when you establish a brand, you must take great care to prove your ownership. You don’t have to fork over big bucks to establish trademarks and register copyrights over a domain name – the costs can run into the thousands and you’d have to establish copyright and trademarks in each country you plan to operate your business.

And what you CAN do is what I ended up doing – a perfectly legitimate and solid proof of business ownership:

Officially registering “TheLizBuzz” as MY business in the province of Ontario.

thelizbuzz business license

I have now taken the step of establishing a business bank account and clients can write cheques directly to my brand, the same way they already do for “Incognito Press.” I have registered thelizbuzz on every social media platform I can find – Facebook, Reddit, Pintrest, Tumblr, Flickr, Skype, and many others. But I’ve also ensured that both the .com and .ca domains and business account are linked to MY name.

That is how you do branding.

Moral of the story: save yourself the trouble and heartache of building a brand and potentially losing it – make sure you always buy a domain first (before you even establish your Twitter and Facebook handles), and register yourself as a business in the province or state where your business will operate.

So in the unlikely event that someone comes around accusing you of stealing “their” brand, you are completely covered and have established your ownership of what is now YOUR brand.

Remember, kids, that branding is more than just a name – it’s an identity. So claim it, own it, and live it to its fullest potential.

End of story.

branding police comic

Posted in social media | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

So Badly My Eyes Hurt, So Badly – a Romanian Folk Song

Posted by E on February 4, 2016

I first heard this song when I was in Romania in the spring of 2015, digging into my family’s secret past. My family defected from Romania in the mid-eighties, before the Revolution that ended Ceausescu’s dictatorship, but there were Securitate records and secrets that I still had to uncover, so I returned to my old haunting grounds, my bullet-scarred Bucharest.

Perhaps I’d heard this song before, sometime in my lost childhood, because a curious sense of deja vu and aching loneliness came over me with those first notes. It was like I received a punch to the gut….and since I blocked so much trauma from my early childhood, I realized that I had something to learn from this experience. Impulsively, I grabbed a sketchbook and decided to set upon translating this old folks song, if only because I couldn’t find another translation into English anywhere online. Its Romanian title is Rau Ma Dor Ochii, Ma Dor – which roughly translates to Badly my eyes hurt, hurt me.

As a poet and someone who cares more about the feeling and meaning in the words, I chose to do a looser translation that focuses more on the meaning of the lyrics rather than the literal translation. I kept most of the authentic words wherever possible, but hopefully I succeeded in conveying the deep, bottomless longing and painful sadness that lingers in this song and makes it haunting…..at least to my own ears.

For the first week I kept listening to this song, I couldn’t stop myself from breaking into tears: it reminded me of the essence of why I was in Romania, chasing ghosts and demons and being unable to stop until I understood WHY. Why did my family’s path take the turn that led me into a cold and foreign country, and why did CNSAS, the authorities who inherited the Securitate Archives, prevent my father’s files from being released more twenty years after his death.

Could it have something to do with him being murdered within 24 hours of his return to Bucharest in 1988? Could it have something to do with the fact that I was followed by a plain-clothes agent in Bucharest and told in no uncertain terms that I should stop asking questions about my father’s death?

The song is called “So badly my eyes hurt, so badly.” There are countless renditions of it, but this one – sang by these two young women of the Romanian Armed Forces, haunted me the most – and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

As I mentioned earlier, I found no English translation online so I gave my best effort to convey the sentiment of this old, traditional Romanian folk song from the mountains of Transylvania. It’s pure heartache in song, a deep sadness and ache that I’m certain I failed to describe within the simplicity of this translation – but the melody transcends the language.

So badly my eyes hurt, so badly
From the brightness of the stars
And I go, and then again I go
Down to the river under the walnut tree
I make myself, and again I make myself
Chop wood from fir and wood from birch

So badly my feet hurt, so badly
From walking all the beaten paths
And so badly my eyes hurt, so badly
From witnessing the pain of those leaves

So badly does my heart ache
That you love another one
But I will leave without knowing
And I go, and then again I go
Down to the river under the walnut tree
And I make myself, and then again I make myself
Chop wood from fir and wood from birch.

Where you have gone, I do not know
Just that my soul is empty and hollow
And so I go, and on I go
to the river under the walnut tree
and again I make myself, and make myself again
chop fir and to chop birch
and so badly my eyes hurt, so badly
from feeling the pain of those leaves.

field haystacks

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I Know What It’s Like Not to be Believed

Posted by E on February 1, 2016

woman-gagged

In light of the Jian Ghomeshi sex scandal and the burgeoning public epiphany that sometimes women don’t speak of abuse not because they’re not truthful, but because they fear ridicule, public mockery, further abuse and being disbelieved in the court of public opinion (as well as actual courts), I must write this.

Over the last year I put aside my blog and focused on generating media interest in my book, which is based on my experiences as a teenage girl inside a domestic terrorist group spear-headed by a CSIS (Canadian Intelligence and Security Service) agent, Grant Bristow.

After releasing my book at the end of March, there was a flurry of interest, but none from traditional media outlets. I quickly discovered that if you are not published by a large press, i.e. Random House or Penguin (who I walked away from back in 2011 for various reasons), nobody will believe you.

My experiences cruelly paralleled what happened to me back in 1993 – upon a secret mandate issued by CSIS to all provincial police forces to dismiss all my signed affidavits and eyewitness evidence (discussed in a 1993 episode of The Fifth Estate), I was denied entry into the RCMP Witness Protection program and forced to go on the run for my life.

It didn’t matter then that everybody knew a CSIS agent had gone rogue and established the violent paramilitary white supremacist group you might remember as the Heritage Front.

It didn’t matter that Brian McInnis, a cabinet aide to the Attorney General who leaked an internal confidential CSIS report about said rogue agent, was dismissed from his job and charged under Canada’s insidious Official Secrets Act.

It didn’t matter that assaults, hate-mongering and even two particularly vicious sexual assaults had been connected to the Heritage Front (and many believe, to the leadership).

It didn’t matter that said rogue agent encouraged others to join the conservative Reform Party (and served as bodyguard at Reform conventions), thereby leading to the destruction of this political party when the Toronto Sun broke that violent HF members were encouraged to join Preston Manning’s Reform party as a way to sway them to the far right.

No investigation was to take place.

The rogue agent would be cleared – because to clear him was to ensure CSIS’s good name, along with the name of the agent’s handler, one connected to the RCMP intelligence unit that preceded the inception of CSIS – the same RCMP unit responsible for dirty tricks against the FLQ that included breaking into offices and blowing up barns under the guise of being “French separatists”.

Grant Bristow CSISIt didn’t matter that neo-Nazis with criminal histories were taught by this CSIS agent how to stalk and gather information against political opponents, how to harass and threaten them over the telephone and even in person with impunity, while at the same time gathering a seemingly-endless cache of weapons to be used in what they believed was an impending Race War.

It didn’t matter that my credibility on the witness stand had already been established after my testimony was crucial to the convictions of three prominent Heritage Front leaders back in 1993.

In the end, I was just an impoverished, homeless, abused eighteen-year old girl and they….well, they were CSIS.

I was a nobody, and Grant Bristow was deemed enough of a hero to receive a standing ovation at a Toronto synagogue after an event hosted by the Canadian Jewish Congress – albeit they were among the same people who were targeted for attacks by violent skinheads and neo-Nazis who looked up to Grant Bristow, who worshipped him as their hero.

Although I was a lesbian, although my father was Jewish, although I sent three neo-Nazis to prison, I was not credible enough for ANY police division in Canada to open an investigation.

I was worthless.

I was a nobody.

Scores of weapons ranging from automatic rifles to M16s are still on the street because nobody bothered to sign off on a warrant to raid premises that stored illegal weapons intended for future terrorist actions.

But here we are, exactly twenty years later, and I have a book in my hands that details everything I saw and accounted for in my affidavits.

Hategan articleI thought the media were my friends. Upon the advice of my former lawyer Paul Copeland, I contacted various prominent members of the media, including Linden MacIntyre (before his retirement) – who I presume didn’t think much of my heartfelt plea to discuss the events I had witnessed, because he didn’t grace me with a single acknowledgement message.

I sent a message to a woman who had filmed a documentary about me for It’s About Time, a Vision TV program where she had worked before she climbed up the media ladder and eventually became DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING AT THE CBC. She had been one of the few people concerned about me, back in the day. Or so I thought, because of the care she took during my interview in the 1990s. Then again, back then she was a hungry, inquisitive recent film school grad with a vested interest in doing the right thing, not Director of Programming at the CBC. She hadn’t rubbed elbows with the elites yet, she hadn’t had a taste of what Canadian media is really like.

She assured me that she would send my manuscript and story throughout the ranks of the CBC – Canada’s taxpayer-funded Broadcasting Corporation. Surely someone there might be interested in speaking with me, even for a mere sound bite, in light of all the controversial CSIS operations in the Muslim community (where people with questionable guilt and motives are pushed into illegal actions by people who cannot, in good conscience, be described by any words other than agent provocateurs).

NOBODY bothered to contact me again.

FINALLY, I heard from a journalist at the Globe & Mail who is very familiar with political columns and often writes articles about the over-reaching grasp of our country’s shadowy intelligence agency.

We met for coffee in the Annex and had a conversation which lasted over an hour. He was interested, even flabbergasted, by what I had seen. And then came the punchline – when he asked me if the book was self-published. When I told him it was, it was clear that his mood had shifted.

Somehow, by the sheer fact that someone like Random House wasn’t behind me, he was never going to cover the story. In fact, it seemed like he lost interest and questioned whether what I had told him was in fact, factual.

I am used to being disbelieved by the police, but it was a first – to encounter this from people who are entrusted with impartiality.

It was in that moment when I experienced a visceral sense of deja-vu – the sensation of feeling like no matter what I said, or did, that nobody would believe me. That I was worthless. That I was a whore who was doing this for attention.

I felt dirty. I felt ashamed. I felt exactly as I did when Wolfgang Droege, leader of the Heritage Front and best buddy of Grant Bristow, hit on me when I was sixteen, and when a knife was held up to my neck and I was threatened with death on suspicions of turning against them.

Yes, I know what it’s like to be treated like a rape victim. I know what rape feels like, and I know what it’s like to be alone in the world, to feel ashamed and dirty when everybody around you prefers to look the other way.

Back in the 1990s, I possessed enough information to send at least ten Heritage Front and Northern Hammerskins individuals to jail. Probably more, but it hurts too much to start thinking about all the What Ifs. Aside from learning how to hack into telephone systems and how to push people to the brink of suicide, I was taught another important lesson by CSIS – that the weight of truth depends on the perceived worth of those who speak it.

To the OPP and RCMP officers who had been advised by CSIS to disregard my statements, the intrinsic value of my evidence was judged by my worth as a human being – and as an abused, impoverished teenage girl with no education, family or powerful clique of good old CSIS boys to back me up, what I had to say meant absolutely nothing.

Thanks to Canada’s Security and Intelligence Service, millions of dollars were sank into ugly, bottomless pit that was Operation Governor. Falsehoods were spun to assert that Bristow had somehow “prevented” crime from happening, though the fabrications included in the SIRC Report tell us just how much their words are worth. And when I brought real, concrete evidence forth to prosecute dangerous individuals, they buried it.

And yet somehow, being that it is 2014 and I am a university-graduate and professional writer, I never expected this treatment from the supposedly-liberal, “bleeding-hearted” media. From journalists who work for the CBC and Globe & Mail. From people who are not supposed to make you feel like garbage for TELLING THE TRUTH.

But then I think, they too must be scared. Scared to offend, to push the wrong buttons, to stick up for someone who was victimized.

Not when the men in question are powerful. Not when the victim is a teenager, a piece of trash. Not when our government has bought an agent’s silence with a quarter million dollars.

And not when a book is self-published.

For further research, I have an extensive media library and traditional press documentation available to anyone interested in what really happened in Canada during the early 1990s: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/race-traitor-reference-media-library/ 

READ MY BOOK HERE: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00JA05FYM

 

Posted in grant bristow, media, press, truth, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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