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The Truth about White Lies

Posted by E on February 2, 2020

Elisa WhiteLies collage edited

In 1995, a young woman named Elizabeth Moore was featured in a Macleans article. Her story of endangerment and defection from a white supremacist group caught the eye of two CBC film producers, Dennis Foon and Phil Savath. Right away, they contacted Moore through Canadian Jewish Congress Executive Director Bernie Farber, who had been quoted in the same article – and offered to option her life rights.

In 1996, Moore signed a contract for $12,500 to sell her life rights – “The Life Story of Elizabeth Moore” – to the CBC. The contract stipulates that Moore was selling “her life from her childhood to 1995, and surrounding her involvement with the organization known as ‘The Heritage Front’”. Paragraph 12 (b) reads “The information [Moore] provides in connection with the Life Story is accurate and factual to the best of her knowledge”.

Elizabeth Moore White Lies Contract

In 1998, a movie titled “White Lies” was broadcast on national television and publicized widely as “A True Story” that was based on “the life of Elizabeth Moore” – character names and events were changed but according to the press, the film was based on Moore’s experiences in the Heritage Front and was only “nominally fiction”. 

The media blitz that accompanied the film’s release lavished the filmmakers with praise. An Emmy nomination soon followed. The Globe and Mail printed an effusive review of the film, featuring side-by-side photos of Polley and Moore, with the caption reading “Polley (left) plays a young neo-Nazi in a movie based on the real-life experiences of Elizabeth Moore (right).”

Journalist Doug Saunders quoted Elizabeth as saying the film “accurately” represents her real-life experiences:

“Although the film is nominally fiction, Moore has found it an unnervingly accurate portrayal of her experience. “I’ve watched the film now about six times and I’ve never gotten through it without crying,” she said.”  

IMG_1739

The trouble is, the “True Story” depicted in the film that was released in 1998 does not belong to the woman whose name is on the contract. 

 

white-lies-uk-cover TRUE STORY

In 1993 I was a teenager recruited into the ranks of Canada’s most dangerous white supremacist group, the Heritage Front. I was the only girl in the core of the movement, and was groomed for a leadership position. I wrote articles for their magazine Up Front, gave speeches at rallies and spoke to the press on their behalf, including representing the organization on the Montel Williams Show.

I was sixteen years old when I met my new father figure, Front leader Wolfgang Droege, and was introduced to notorious Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel, who welcomed me into his townhouse on Carlton Street in Toronto. As an abused, poor, runaway teenager who emigrated from communist Romania five years earlier and whose father died two years after that, I didn’t have a safe family to look out for me.

This is when Zundel stepped in and became a grandfatherly figure, teaching me that Jews controlled the world, the Holocaust never happened, and Hitler (whose portraits hung from his townhouse walls) was right to eliminate the mentally and physically handicapped, the homosexuals, and of course the Jews.

By the time I turned 17, Heritage Front co-founder and second-in-command leader Grant Bristow (later revealed to be a CSIS mole) started what would become known as the It Campaign – a campaign of terror waged against anti-racist activists and indigenous leader Rodney Bobiwash, who organized protests against the Heritage Front.

Bristow single-handedly instructed dangerous white supremacists tricks of the Intelligence community – how to break into answering machines, impersonate reporters, stalk your victims and terrorize them, disguise oneself to avoid arrest. Those emboldened skinheads embarked on a harassment campaign with street attacks, beatings, car tires slashes, spray-painting and fire-bombings of an aboriginal centre, synagogue, bookstores, the Morgentaler abortion clinic, a Jewish Kitchener woman’s home and Runnymede House, a Children’s Aid group home for young girls.

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. As a core insider I had a lot of information I could access, and had earned the trust of HF leaders as well as Zundel himself, for whom I worked as an assistant and errand-girl.

At age 18, I spied on my former friends for four months, handing off my information to Martin Theriault of Montreal’s Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice. I stole Zundel’s international mailing list, turned whatever information I could to police, and defected. In March 1994 I appeared as the star witness against Wolfgang Droege and 2 other white supremacists at a trial that resulted in convictions and jail sentences

While I was in hiding and going by a different name in Ottawa (they knew me as Kat), the CBC released White Lies, advertising it as a “TRUE STORY” – the story of another ex-Heritage Front member who joined the group after I defected, Elizabeth Moore.

However, the TRUE STORY advertised by the CBC did not belong to the person whose name was on their contract. 

 

THE EVOLUTION OF A LIE 

A significant portion of White Lies is made up of my lived experiences – proven experiences that were documented in the media at the time, in court transcripts of my sworn testimony at the Heritage Front trial, and a 1994 documentary made for a television show called “It’s About Time.” I would later find out (from Moore herself, no less) that a CBC producer had scoured public records and interviewed people who knew me, in order to fabricate a movie purportedly about Moore.

For the record, I did not consent to any of this. Nor did anyone involved in the production bother to ask permission.

Several scenes in White Lies are derived from this documentary, which was part of a Vision TV series called “It’s About Time”. It was filmed in 1994, shortly after I testified against Heritage Front leaders. I had just turned 19 and was wearing a cheap $20 wig I’d picked up in Halifax to disguise myself, right before I flew back to Toronto for the trial.

This documentary proved critical in Moore’s decision to leave the group. Two decades later, she told me that she still owned a VHS copy.

During a 1995 interview with the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS), Moore credits watching it during a Heritage Front Thanksgiving party in October 1994, before “something in [her] snapped” and she decided that she wanted to say the same things I did.

Here’s a clip from that lengthy interview, where Moore talks about that crucial moment and tells how she met with Bernie Farber (coincidentally, also for four months) before parting with the group without any incidents or threats – an interesting admission for someone who just told Macleans that she was “a marked woman” worried about getting “a letter bomb in the mail.” 

At best, White Lies is a gross conflation of two very different young women’s experiences inside a white supremacist organization, with one woman being singularly rewarded and credited as the film’s inspiration, while the other one’s lived experiences are scavenged for profit. 

At worst, it’s an egregious case of exploitation where one impoverished, immigrant teenager’s lived experiences were appropriated by a well-connected middle-class woman who – for the next 22 years – marketed and monetized the movie as exclusively her own story, gaining numerous speaking engagements, jobs in the film & television sector, and even a secondary film role. 

As the years went by, Moore’s appropriations extended beyond the conflations portrayed in White Lies. In September 2017 she appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, accompanied by Bernie Farber, when Farber falsely communicated that she – along with me – had SHUT DOWN THE HERITAGE FRONT, despite no evidence whatsoever to back up such a significant lie. It was the first time either Moore or Farber ever stated such a thing – yet once the lie was communicated, they stuck to it.

Since 2018, Moore has posted photos of her appearance on The Agenda as promotional material across her social media sites. This episode is also the flash opening of Moore’s website; as of today’s date, every visitor to her site is greeted by an automatic replay of the show and its fraudulent statements, paving the way for more speaking engagements and consulting gigs obtained under false premises. 

In January 2019, Moore appeared on CTV’s The Social and represented herself as a “disenfranchised teen” from a “troubled family”, despite multiple interviews over the previous 20+ years in which she had never made such a claim. In fact, the most consistent statement in ALL of Moore’s videotaped interviews and newspaper articles between 1995-2019, is her description of loving parents who paid for her university education and were very supportive and concerned. 

After analyzing White Lies frame-by-frame and comparing it with evidence from public record, court files and recorded interviews of both myself and Moore, I’ve come to believe that as much as 75% of the film consists of events that can be linked back to me. An in-depth breakdown of the most significant scenes is posted in the next section of this article.

Less than 50% of White Lies can be attributed to Moore herself, and consists primarily of her relationship with nice, middle-class parents, fellow university students, and a romantic relationship with a skinhead (being closeted, I never had a boyfriend while in the HF).

Despite all the incontrovertible evidence I’ve compiled – even Moore’s own words – that shows how my life served as inspiration for White Lies, the Canadian press has remained silent, with one notable exception:

In April 2019, the Canadian Jewish News published a misleading article titled “Reformed Heritage Front Members involved in Lawsuit authored by Ron Csillag, a Facebook friend of Bernie Farber. Nowhere in the article does Csillag acknowledge his preexisting relationship with Farber.

Ron Csillag friends with Bernie Farber - Edited

Csillag’s article strives to create a false equivalency between me and Moore, with Csillag reporting that my lawsuit is about “a fictional movie about a fictional young woman who falls in with a fictional hate group.”

Although he didn’t interview me prior to publication, Csillag already had a copy of my Statement of Claim. If he’d bothered to read it front-to-end, he would have realized that my claim does not focus on White Lies itself; rather, it involves fraudulent appropriations made repeatedly since 2017 – well within the Limitations Act. White Lies serves only as the principal conduit that kick-started and enabled a 20+ year appropriation of my identity. 

As of today’s date, producer Dennis Foon’s website continues to allege that White Lies is inspired by “a high school girl, Elizabeth Moore” – and no one else. Despite Moore’s email admission in which she states that Foon researched my life for OVER A YEAR, and despite evidence that he recreated several of my lived experiences, the CBC has done absolutely nothing to address or correct this blatant exploitation of my life. 

Since 2015 I have made repeated attempts to contact Foon. Other than blocking me on Twitter, he has refused to acknowledge that I exist – much less add a single line to credit me for also inspiring his derivative film, or apologize for the fact that my life was scavenged for his script.

His fellow White Lies director Kari Skogland has also ignored my messages – something I didn’t expect from the female director of the acclaimed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bestseller The Handmaid’s Tale – ironically, a story about impoverished, powerless young women being exploited.

Dennis Foon IMG_1692

In the ‘Bonus Feature’ of the White Lies DVD, Foon gushes about how excited he was 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, as I was) who attended university being caught up in the white supremacist movement.

Before I forget – Dennis Foon is also a Facebook friend of Bernie Farber’s, whose name shows up in the film credits. 

Dennis Foon Farber friendship

For a long time I was upset with the producers who participated in what I view as a blatant exploitation of my life – the life of a girl who did something brave but had no prospects, protection or legal representatives to ensure that her life would not be cannibalized and used to profit others, while she herself lived in abject poverty.

Only in the last couple of years, as I started digging into Elizabeth’s inconsistent narrative in anticipation of my lawsuit, did I realize that her attempt to deflect all blame onto Foon had been a lie.

Early in 2019 I was given a copy of the 1995 CAERS interview with Moore, a nearly 2 hour-long recording. After watching it, I came to believe that Elizabeth’s appropriations started 3 years before the film’s release. This discovery suggests that from the start, Elizabeth provided the filmmakers with a fraudulent depiction of her life inside the Heritage Front – not an accurate representation of her lived experiences but rather a conflation of my unique story with her own. 

In sum, White Lies is not a fictional story. While some characters and events have been conflated or fictionalized, it is heavily inspired by what took place in Toronto in the early to mid-1990s – enough to have the label “A TRUE STORY” printed on the VHS cover.

A STOLEN LIFE – Breakdown of Appropriated Scenes 

The majority of scenes in White Lies are derived from my lived experiences as a teenage girl who rose up the ranks of a white supremacist organization, turned against them, spied on its leaders, and defected.

1. The opening scene is based on a 1993 incident at Riverdale Collegiate which generated HUGE publicity in Toronto at the time. The high school auditorium was filled with youth attending an anti-racist event where Martin Theriault, the man who eventually helped me defect from the group, was the headlining speaker.

Howard Gotlib, the former principal of Riverdale Collegiate, remembers that I was present at this meeting. Janice Dembo, a former employee with the Toronto Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations, also remembers me walking up to the microphone to ask Theriault a question. 

Riverdale collegiate anti-racism rally 1993

One World Week - Riverdale Collegiate recreation

2. Scene where teenage “Catherine” submits an essay to her teacher and is given a failing mark is taken from an incident I was questioned about in my 1994 trial cross-examination, where I spoke of an essay about Anne Frank that I submitted for my ninth-grade class at Jarvis Collegiate Institute, which had upset my teacher.  

1994 trial transcript page25

  1. The scene where teenage “Catherine” sends an essay titled “Christmas is Dead” to the neo-Nazi group “NIM”, short for National Identity Movement, (a composite amalgamation of the Heritage Front and Ernst Zundel) is taken directly from the essay I wrote for Up Front magazine’s inaugural December 1991 issue. I was sixteen years old when I wrote it under the alias “Elisse Deschner” and it was called “A Politically-Correct Santa?”  

White Lies Christmas Santa collage

4. Scene where teenage girl “Catherine” is introduced to the Mrs. K, NIM’s German-born leader who is modelled after Ernst Zundel and played by Lynn Redgrave. “Catherine” quickly becomes Mrs. K’s protégé and begins to work at her house, recording videos and eventually becoming the fresh, young face of the group. – I worked for Zundel as an assistant and even stayed at his place a few times when my home life was unsafe. I helped him with mail-outs, donors correspondence, folding booklets and newsletters, and organizing his books and videos.

Screenshot 2020-01-31 at 12.17.37 AM

5. Teenage “Catherine” quickly rises up the ranks and becomes an official spokesperson.

I represented the Heritage Front in multiple interviews to the press – both in Canadian media and internationally. Here are photos of me at 17 speaking to the CBC and appearing on The Montel Williams Show, as well as a photo of me, age 18, standing side-by-side with my mentor Wolfgang Droege, in a 1992 Globe & Mail article that describes me as the Heritage Front’s softer, female face.

Hategan interview CBC

Elisa on Montel Williams Show

Elisa and HF leader Wolfgang Droege

image2 - Copy

  1. “Catherine” records messages for the group and distributes flyers – aside from also distributing flyers (everyone did), I am the only woman who ever recorded messages on the official Heritage Front hotline. Elizabeth Moore never did. All the messages she wrote/recorded were on a separate, proxy hotline called the “Euro-Canadian Freedom Front” based in Kingston, ON, but not on the actual Heritage Front line.

  2. “Catherine” attends rock concerts and rallies – this scene is derived from the Roma Restaurant concert on November 13, 1992 where the band RaHoWa played. I was videotaped giving a speech that night, right before the concert started – you can see the band equipment and drum set in this photo.Elisa Heritage Front talk 1992 Roma Restaurant

Elisa Heritage Front June1992

Elisa HeritageFront rally2

8. “Catherine” attends KKK rallies – I attended 3 such rallies between 1992-1993, two in London, ON area on Martin Weiche’s property (including the one pictured below) and one in Michigan, USA, at the memorial of Pastor Bob Miles – closest to the experience depicted in White Lies. At the Michigan compound, I witnessed white supremacists selling guns illegally, firing them, and one of the Heritage Front men I drove with smuggled an illegal gun back into Canada. This incident is described in one of the 1993 affidavits I gave to the Ontario Provincial Police.

cross-burning 1993

9. “Catherine” gets trained to fire weapons – at age 17 I was trained to fire a shotgun and used a .22-calibre rifle I received from another HF member (mentioned in a 1993 affidavit), a similar rifle to the one Sarah Polley fires in the movie. Moreover, I owned a registered Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC) which I was forced to relinquish as a bail condition after my 1993 arrest on charges that were dismissed in 1994. My weapons training is discussed in my 1994 “It’s About Time” documentary – scroll up for it. 

Sarah Polley shotgun White Lies

10. “Catherine” gives speeches and is filmed for publicity campaigns. Later, as “the new public face” of NIM, she participates in a TV interview in which she discusses the issue of repatriating immigrants back to their homelands and mentions Louis Farrakhan in her answer to justify racial separation – reenacting nearly verbatim my answer to Montel Williams’ question in November 1992, at age 17 – five years before White Lies was made.

While under the careful watch of NIM’s male leader (a character based on Wolfgang Droege), Sarah Polley parrots my answer while wearing a grey top and white shirt, the same outfit and hairstyle I wore on The Montel Williams Show.  Even the background set, with its three panels divided by black columns with tiny horizontal lines, appears to have been replicated in White Lies.

Elisa Sarah Polley White Lies collage

11. “Catherine” visits a member of NIM in prison: I believe this scene is inspired by my conversations with Zvonimir Lelas, a member who spent a year in prison for spray-painting synagogues, and told me how the movement had betrayed him. I also joined Front leader Wolfgang Droege when we tried to visit the Metzgers of White Aryan Resistance while they were incarcerated at the Don Jail. Here’s a photo of me protesting outside the jail on that day, filmed by a local news crew. IMG_1743

12. NIM’s leader is involved in courthouse battles – these scenes are derived directly from Wolfgang Droege’s Toronto court appearances and clashes with Anti-Racist Action, where I was filmed accompanying him. 

Screenshot 2020-01-31 at 12.23.52 AM

Wolfgang Droege and Elisse courthouse1Wolfgang Droege and Elisse courthouse2

13. “Catherine” witnesses and takes part in a beating, and her group is involved in fire bombings. In “It’s About Time”, I talked about an incident in which a man was almost beaten. Also, while I did not witness the firebombing of Mona Zentner’s home in Kitchener, I was quoted in articles and on CTV National News in relation to my belief that the Heritage Front was responsible – this is part of my 1994 trial testimony.

The firebombing of NIM’s headquarters was inspired by the 1995 firebombing of Ernst Zundel’s Carlton Street townhouse, known as The Bunker. 

Kitchener Mona Zentner house firebombing

14. Teenage “Catherine” infiltrates left-wing organizations – In my House of Commons testimony on June 13, 1995, I testify about Bristow pushing me to spy on left-wing organizations. “I was directed by Grant Bristow to obtain information on legitimate organizations in Toronto such as the Irish Freedom Association, North American black nationalist groups and others. Bristow told me he wanted to build a file on these groups.” […] “He also knew that I was a supporter of the Irish nationalist movement and that I had gone to a meeting of this organization called the Irish Freedom Association. He was very curious about that, so I provided him with written documentation of names, addresses and things I had researched. He wanted me to continue that as well. It was just intelligence-gathering.”  

15. Teenage girl is horrified at the escalation of violence against innocent people and decides to approach an anti-racist activist for help – This is based on experiences detailed in my 1993 affidavits involving the It Campaign spearheaded by Bristow, repeated in my 1994 trial testimony and “It’s About Time” documentary, and 1995 House of Commons testimony:  

“Starting in the winter of 1992, I first became aware of a massive terror campaign on our group’s part, targeting anti-racist groups and individuals. It was launched by the head of the Heritage Front intelligence, Grant Bristow. Front members and supporters were approached and encouraged to go after designated targets. I was one of those approached by Grant Bristow. In the first weeks of January 1993 several individuals would get phone calls day and night from supporters or members of the Front in order to make their life miserable and create a climate of tension and fear. Such a climate was used to stir up a potential confrontation with members of anti-racist groups.” […]  Grant Bristow was the coach and the designer of the campaign, which lasted until my public defection to the Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice in November of that same year.” 

Terrorism Heritage Front

16. A conversation between NIM leader and “Catherine” in a diner, where he hints that NIM had something to do with recent terror attacks – This reflects my conversation with Wolfgang Droege, which made me believe they were behind the recent fire-bombings in Toronto and Kitchener, and is part of my 1993 affidavits and my 1994 interview with CTV National.

17. Teenage “Catherine” works with anti-racist activists and “proves herself” by turning over a membership list she downloads from Mrs. K’s computer – I stole a partial membership list while stuffing envelopes at Ernst Zundel’s house and turned it over to Martin Theriault. My spying and stealing of membership lists from the HF and Zundel was mentioned in my court testimony, as well as touched upon in the 1994 “It’s About Time” documentary.

Reenactment of Hategan stealing Zundel files

18. Teenage girl defects –> I was 18 when I defected; Elizabeth left uneventfully at age 21, deciding to leave on the very night she watched the “It’s About Time” documentary about me.

Moore experienced no threats or harassment as a result of leaving the Front. Her self-described “defection”, along with her claims of endangerment and being a “marked woman” in the 1995 Macleans article that caught the eye of CBC producers and led to the White Lies movie deal, are a fraudulent appropriation of my lived experiences.

IMG_1761

Hategan spies on the Heritage Front

HF leaders convictions after Hategan testimony

19. There is a secondary, fictitious character named Erina who ultimately commits suicide – another instance where something that happened to me is ripped from the headlines and rolled into the film. News about my suicide attempt at age 18 came out during my cross-examination at the trial of Heritage Front members; articles describing it were published in the Toronto Sun and other newspapers. White Lies, of course, exploited it.

Elisa ToSun suicide attempt

If White Lies contains a SINGLE scene that is derived from my lived experiences and not Elizabeth Moore’s, the film should not have been mass-marketed as “The true story of Elizabeth Moore” or “Based on the real-life experiences of Elizabeth Moore” – either by the film producers, the CBC, or Moore herself for the last 25 years. In my view, such advertising and profiting from my experiences is fraudulent and morally unethical. 

However, this is exactly what happened. As you can see in this breakdown, it wasn’t just one scene but more than a dozen, which encapsulate well over 50% of the film.

White Lies was viewed by millions of people across Canada; I have no way of knowing how much was earned through VHS and DVD sales (or spinoff speaking engagements), or if Moore received any royalties.

Even after cross-examining Moore in September 2019 as part of the lawsuit, she was unable to produce a single photograph of herself in the company of Heritage Front members, or any proof that she had been an official member – much less authenticate that White Lies represents her experiences. Outside of her brief appearance in Hearts of Hate, a documentary that featured dozens of white supremacists, there is no proof that she ever did more than write a handful of articles and operate a Kingston, ON telephone hotline before selling the rights to “her life story”.

CONFRONTING MOORE — “THE TRUTH” EMAIL 

In January 2013, I received an email from Elizabeth. She had read one of my books and wanted to connect. We had never actually met inside the Front because she joined their ranks around November 1993, right after I defected and went into hiding. We were both excited to meet each other. Over the next couple of years, we became good friends and talked about each other’s experiences within the Heritage Front at length. Elizabeth read my 2014 memoir Race Traitor and praised it, telling me that after my defection she had not been brought into the leaders’ confidence as I was, “because they didn’t want to trust another girl with sensitive info”. 

Moore FB convoFor two years, I didn’t have any reason to question Elizabeth’s motives or suspect that White Lies was not based on her life. That is, until February 2015 – when a conversation I’d had with her days earlier prompted me to google and find the film on YouTube. Just minutes in, I was struck by the horrific realization that the scenes playing out before my eyes were not renditions of Elizabeth’s experiences, but my own. 

It was a devastating blow – in one night, I came to understand that my story had been abhorrently exploited by the CBC and Moore herself, the woman I’d come to regard as my best friend.

When I confronted Elizabeth in an email she did not deny it, instead heaping all blame onto CBC producer and scriptwriter Dennis Foon: “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 and it certainly went far above and beyond me, my story, and what I could share.”

Elizabeth Moore confession White Lies

I was in shock. Not only had I just seen some of my most painful teenage experiences reenacted on screen, but the woman I’d considered a best friend actually ADMITTED that my life HAD inspired the movie – the movie that was credited exclusively as Moore’s life story, the movie she’d made $12,500 from (in today’s economy, close to $19K according to Bank of Canada’s inflation calculator) and which had earned her follow-up projects and speaking gigs. 

The years passed, but I refused to stop speaking about it. It was all I could do to bring awareness to the situation, since the statute of limitations to sue the CBC had passed. Moore started cyber-stalking me relentlessly; some days I’d see her IP on my blog 5 or more times a day. I called her a stalker, and that’s when she started telling people I was harassing her. Unsure if she planned to use White Lies to market herself in the future, I bought a bunch of previously-unregistered domains I thought she might use for a website, which stoked the animosity between us.

But then Charlottesville happened. Seemingly overnight, the press latched on to the reality of white supremacy posing a threat (something I’d written about since 2011), and governments started doling out huge grants to pretty much any organization that could slap together a decent proposal to show they were tackling white nationalism and hate. Predictably, a new speakers market was created, replete with income opportunities for former extremists with a story to sell. 

Within days of Charlottesville, Moore appeared on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen, represented as “The pretty, public face” of the Heritage Front, its female spokeswoman (she never represented the HF as a spokesperson) and that White Lies represented her experiences. Bernie Farber, ever the kingmaker, had connected her to Blair Crawford, author of this error-ridden endorsement, with the wildly hyperbolic statement “Her story his (sic) unique and a huge lesson for humanity.”

Moore also told the Citizen that she had been “the only white student” in her class, a falsehood she would repeat between 2017-2019, both to the press and during speaking engagements. Incidentally, after 2 years of investigating her backstory, I’ve found no records of Moore ever making this claim prior to 2017, and her high school yearbook shows several other Caucasian students in her cohort. She lifted this line verbatim from my 1994 court testimony (which she attended, taking notes) and my 2014 memoir Race Traitor, where the line is repeated.

White kid line court testimony

Farber endorsement

One month later, Moore and Farber appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin, where Farber made the stunningly fraudulent claim that Moore had been “The Face” of the HF, and that she (along with me) had “SHUT DOWN the Heritage Front”. At no time in the last 25 years had that statement ever been said about Moore, but they doubled down and ran with it. 

Within months, Moore created a website where her biographical section appropriated my experiences in the Heritage Front. For her website banner, she uploaded the September 2017 episode of The Agenda and set it to auto-play, ensuring that all visitors would hear Farber’s lies and believe she was responsible for shutting down the group I risked my life to dismantle.

She followed the bulk of my Twitter journalist contacts, Jewish community and synagogue friends, as well as my criminology and extremism-related followers and tried to immerse herself in the field. She described herself as “The verifiable inspiration for White Lies” across several social media platforms – going so far as to tell one Reddit user that White Lies was “100%” her own story and implied that I had been “a troubled young person” who identified with her experiences, rather than the other way around.

Within a year, she launched full-steam ahead into a new career as a public speaker, consultant and “expert educator” on far-right extremism, despite the fact that unlike me, she had never studied criminology and terrorism or worked/volunteered inside the criminal justice system.

Just like in the 1990s, this newly-resurrected career was established on a foundation of fraud and appropriation. And while she was featured in several high-profile interviews that led to paid speaking engagements, not a single journalist questioned her narrative. 

IMG_1749

In December 2018 I initiated legal proceedings against Moore, and in February 2019 my lawsuit was amended to add Bernie Farber, the man who facilitated and endorsed her career over the last 25 years, the man who invited her to join the Canadian Anti-Hate Network’s Board of Advisors as an “expert” on the far right, who promoted her to journalists, secured the majority of her speaking engagements, and lied for her on The Agenda with Steve Paikin.

(BTW, Steve Paikin also happens to be a friend of Farber’s. In an email Paikin sent me in June 2019, he admits he’s known Farber for 25 years.)

Moore Farber CAHNA CAREER BUILT ON A FOUNDATION OF FRAUD

Why did I sue Farber? I believe Bernie Farber was integral in maintaining the fraud. He provided Moore with important recommendations, connections to journalists, and the full endorsement of the Canadian Jewish Congress during the time he was Executive Director. Just as he is doing today as the Chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Farber used his credentials and the Jewish Congress’ reputation to promote Moore and involved her in several CJC initiatives spanning a decade which generated publicity for both of them, thereby ensuring that Moore’s fraud remained unquestioned until I commenced litigation.

Elizabeth Moore couldn’t have done what she did for as long as she did it without the assistance of somebody like Bernie Farber or fellow CJC director Len Rudner (currently a Board member of CAHN), who were tasked to represent the Jewish community and – either unknowingly, negligently or intentionally – used their reputations to endorse a fraud (who also happened to be Rudner’s mistress at the time). Farber is as culpable, in my judgement, as Moore herself is in the unauthorized exploitation and monetization of my lived experiences.

Farber did not submit an affidavit in his defence, and therefore could not be cross-examined. I have no idea if he was paid for his participation in White Lies, but his name appears in the film credits and he profited from the publicity blitz that followed its release. 

Farber White Lies credits

Since 2015 I’ve researched Moore’s narrative in depth and I can state with utmost confidence that her involvement with the Heritage Front – during the time she claims she was a member – was NEVER documented in any news articles or media, with the singular exception of Hearts of Hate, a documentary that also featured me and dozens of other neo-Nazis. She never represented the Front as a spokeswoman. There is absolutely zero evidence that Moore “rose up the ranks” to become the Heritage Front’s “pretty, public face” and “mouthpiece”, as she claims. 

Moore also alleges that she was a teenager when she joined the Front (in one article she told a journalist she was 16, in others 17 or 18). These statements are false and plainly contradicted in her first article in Up Front magazine, a letter-to-the-editor that she mailed to the Front’s PO Box in 1993, prior to meeting any members in person. Using her middle name initial as an alias, Moore writes “I have yet to join the Heritage Front” because she perceived them to be sexist. She was 19.6 years old.  

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By the time Moore met any Heritage Front members in person, she was 20 years old. She herself admits this in an essay that has since been scrubbed from the internet but is published in at least one textbook – a 1997 essay titled “From Marches to Modems” which she wrote for a Bernie Farber-published report for the City of Toronto. “Elisse defected from the Heritage Front about the time I became active,” she writes.

I defected in November 1993, the month Moore turned 20 years old.

In a 2011 documentary titled “In God’s Keeping produced for her Ryerson University MFA in Documentary Film, Moore is captured on film saying she became a neo-Nazi not as a teen girl, but “in my early 20s“.

Moore Marches to Modems 1997

Excerpt from Moore’s 1997 essay “From Marches to Modems”, published by Farber

Moore was never a speaker at rallies – I was. All Heritage Front rallies were filmed, with the videotapes sold through a mail-form and at meetings. Moore does not appear on any archival tapes, because she never made a speech. She also never had access to Ernst Zundel’s data and I doubt she was in his townhouse more than once or twice. 

Even after being asked for material evidence as part of this lawsuit, Moore has not produced a single photograph of herself in the company of Front members, any corroborating affidavits, videotapes or evidence of herself either speaking at rallies or a single instance where she represents the HF as a spokeswoman. Farber himself has not provided a sworn affidavit to even attempt to corroborate her story.

Moore cannot even produce a Heritage Front membership card, despite claiming in her 2018 Macleans op-ed that she was “a card-carrying member” within months of being age 17 – in sharp contrast to her 1994 Up Front article where, at age 19 and six months, she confesses that she “has yet to join” the group.

What Moore does have in her possession, however, is a VHS copy of my “It’s About Time” documentary. I have no idea how many times she has watched it.

Facts don’t lie – throughout the year Moore was actively involved with the Heritage Front (approx. November 1993 – October 1994), she lived in Kingston, ON and attended Queen’s University. She was a 20-year old woman, and not the teenager depicted in White Lies. Although she wrote a handful of articles for Up Front, she never recorded telephone messages on the Heritage Front’s official hotline. Instead, she operated at arm’s length in Kingston, running a backup, alternate phone line called the “Euro-Canadian Freedom Front.” 

Over a period of 20+ years, Elizabeth Moore systematically changed the backstory of her time in the Heritage Front to align more closely with my experiences. Across the years, there have been dozens of inconsistencies and contradictions in Moore’s narrative about WHEN she joined, WHY she joined, WHAT SHE DID in the Heritage Front and WHY SHE LEFT, in her attempt to conflate her story with mine.

I believe that her most recent appropriation – the 2019 claim she was a “disenfranchised” and “troubled teenager” – is an attempt to elicit sympathy and add mitigating factors to her story, because the idea of a privileged, adult woman who suffered no beatings or abuse, and whose loving parents paid for her university education, is not as palatable to an audience that seeks to understand why youth are drawn to extremist organizations. 

In order to gain fame, enhanced credentials and portray what would otherwise be an insignificant role and non-dramatic experience, Moore appropriated sensational aspects of my life and build a platform where she profited from speaking engagements, a movie dramatization, documentary roles and other forms of monetization and publicity.  

WHAT IS A LIFE WORTH?

What would you do if someone stole your name and SIN number, and took out credit cards in your name? What if this individual built a business and career from your name and reputation? 

This would be identity fraud. You’d go to the police, and chances are you’d get assistance.

But what if someone did this for 25 years, and nobody cared? And you couldn’t fight back because you didn’t have the money to seek justice, or because the justice that could help your case has not been written yet?  Because he didn’t actually steal your name, per se. He stole everything else that makes up your identity: your lived experiences, the worst years of your life, the terrible things that defined you.

What if this identity thief built a veneer of respectability and authority in the community, and nobody believed you? What effect would this have on your psyche? On your view of justice and fairness in this country? 

What if, one day you watched a movie and saw YOURSELF reenacted on screen, but another individual credited as the film’s sole inspiration? 

What if you saw your identity thief get paid projects, media attention and praise after claiming to shut down a group they were barely affiliated with – a group that you actually risked your life to dismantle?

What would you do if you were denied publication in an academic textbook, but the person who stole your identity was included? 

What would you do if all the articles you wrote for a popular blog over a 4-year span were deleted after the man running it became financially supported by the same network of individuals who endorsed your identity thief?

What would you do if you didn’t have the money to fight back, and all the lawyers you contacted told you that there’s no precedent for your case because as long as someone doesn’t use your actual name, there are no laws on the books to prevent someone from stealing the unique events and personal characteristics that define your identity (down to your religion and sexual orientation) and passing them them off as their own, for profit? 

What would you do if the public believed that those who exploited your identity are the good guys, and you are the liar?

What would you do if you were being countersued for defamation by the person who stole your identity in the first place? 

Would you have any faith left in the justice system? Or would you share your story with every breath in the hope that someone, somehow, someday would just look at the evidence? 

An artist’s song or a writer’s book is their intellectual property; I could not, for example, take CBC’s “White Lies” and sell it as my own product because it would violate copyright law. And yet the film producers took my life from public record, reenacted it and sold it legally as their own product. By working with those producers, and representing herself as the exclusive source of the “true story” it was inspired by, Elizabeth Moore was effectively able to steal my life.  

What would YOU do if another individual stole your life story, sold it as her own “life story” and marketed it for the following 25 years?

I’ll tell you what would happen: 

You would lose hope. Hope in justice, in the legal profession, in this country where you tried to do the right thing but were exploited, over and over again. 

After having lived through all of this, you would feel that shouting your story from the rooftops is an act as crucial as breathing. 

I have nothing left but the truth – and I won’t have them steal that from me. Not anymore.

A WRETCHED LITTLE IMMIGRANT GIRL

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In this 1994 jealous diatribe published in Up Front magazine, Moore calls me a “Wretched Little Immigrant Girl” and ridicules me for testifying against HF leader Wolfgang Droege and two other members – a testimony that resulted in convictions and jail sentences, and contributed directly to dismantling the Heritage Front.

How ironic that in 2017 – 23 years after writing that article – Moore and Farber rewrote history by telling Steve Paikin and the Canadian public (for the first time ever) that Moore herself shut down the Heritage Front.  

What’s actually wretched is my experience of the justice system in this country. As a teenager, I risked my life to testify against three dangerous white supremacists. Despite the threats on my life and being responsible for 3 convictions, I wasn’t admitted into the Witness Protection Program; at only 18, Canadian authorities didn’t give a hoot whether I lived or died.

Conversely, Grant Bristow – who counselled many Heritage Front members to commit crimes and himself engaged in criminal activity, whose 5 years of well-paid undercover work resulted in NO arrests and convictions of any Canadian white supremacists – got away with it. In fact, he was given a house, 2 cars and a $3000-per-month stipend for several years after being relocated into the Witness Protection Program.

And yet, despite all the anti-racist community activists who were terrorized by Bristow’s harassment campaign, Bernie Farber invited him to participate in a 2011 speaking engagement where he received a standing ovation, and referred to Bristow as “a friend” in a 2017 Toronto Star article.

Farber Bristow endorsement TOStar 2017

As an adult, I witnessed a privileged woman and her well-connected friend profit from my lived experiences through a movie deal, speaking engagements and endless publicity – while I suffered the psychological and economic effects of the life she marketed as her own.

By stealing my teenage experiences, by taking credit for and appropriating my painful past, Moore took the only thing I ever did right, the one thing that made my whole wretched miserable life worthwhile — the knowledge that, despite everything I ever endured in my life — the abuse, the danger and threats against me by the neo-Nazi family who had groomed and exploited me — that I made a difference.

She took the only thing in my life that I felt the most proud of and turned it into a monetizing ploy to advance a false narrative because she didn’t have a marketable story of her own.

WHAT IS THE MEANING OF EVERYTHING?

A suicide attempt early in 2016 left me hopeless that I would ever see justice. I started to wonder why this struggle to bring awareness of my exploitation had become EVERYTHING to me. What was my life lesson? Why fight so hard for something nobody else cares about, at the cost of my health? 

Then, in December 2019, it finally hit me. Awake in bed, crying myself to sleep, hopeless and exhausted, I suddenly understood why.

All my life I wanted to push mine away, to repress everything that happened. For forty years I pushed away from the shores of my identity, while the real me watched from a darkened coastline, not knowing whether I’d return.

For forty years I was the little matchstick girl, standing on tiptoes in the snow outside a beautiful mansion, peeking into a world where I’ve never belonged. No parent helped me do my homework, packed my lunch or ironed my school uniform. No one celebrated my small victories or wept over my petty defeats, over the courtyard bullying or the horrible names kids love to call outsiders. If I was hit or called names, surely it was my fault. 

All my life, I ran away from my epigenetic hurts. I hid from life the way my deaf father Iosif, a brilliant painter whose work was never recognized by the hearing community, let his broken dreams turn into rage. Just like his mother Ana before him, cast off at age 19 with a baby because she wasn’t ethnically Hungarian – because speaking perfect Magyar and going to an Austro-Hungarian finishing school couldn’t scrub the Romanian from her blood, the barbed wire, the Jew from the coarseness of her hair. They changed their name, lied about their Jewish identity the way I hid my identity when I was a teenager on the run. 

Sometimes it’s easier to become the Other, the one who would otherwise break you. When you have no more skin left to grow another scab, healing becomes impossible. Sometimes it’s easier NOT to heal – because healing or forgiveness means acknowledging you are a victim.

For some, this acknowledgement has the power to take your breath away and crush you right back into the dirt you came from. Deep inside, you know that if you faced the truth of your victimization, you might never get off your knees. Sometimes it’s easier to become the enemy. That’s what happened to me as a teenager – a half-Jewish girl who became a neo-Nazi.

It was a surefire way to run from my past and feign the brutality of the aggressor, to go from powerless to powerful in a world where, for the first time in my life, I was the bully instead of the bullied – a strong and vengeful Athena instead of the wounded little girl I saw every time I looked in a mirror. 

So I dyed my curly dark hair red in an effort to look more “Aryan”. I tried blue contacts to cover up my brown eyes. I hated my nose and Romanian accent, the predictable “Where you from?” that seemed to follow me. But the Heritage Front still accepted me, because they fed on my pain – because the more I hated, the more my racist family loved me. 

The years I spent in hiding did nothing to improve my faith in justice. In 1994, while living at Adsum house, a homeless women’s shelter in Halifax, I signed up for a two-day intensive GED exam. I was nineteen years old, a ninth-grade dropout with no prospects, no family and no protection, living on the run after testifying against three high-profile neo-Nazis. At night, I still remembered the coldness of the knife held against my throat when Front leaders had questioned me about being a rat. 

A month later, my high school equivalency diploma, conferred by the Nova Scotia Board of Education, arrived in the mail. Less than a year later I would be accepted as a mature student into both Carleton and the University of Ottawa, and I’d choose the latter for its prestigious criminology program. By studying the psychology of crime and youth/women’s involvement in gangs and extremism, I hoped to get a better perspective on what had happened to me.

The hardest part of my university application wasn’t the arduous student loan application I had to complete, figuring out what my next meal would be, or starting a new life in a new city, using yet another alias and hoping that I wouldn’t be tracked down by the men who threatened my life – but coming up with two required reference letters. I was too ashamed to ask for help – scared of disappointing others if I failed, and wondering if anybody would see a modicum of potential in me, enough to vouch for my academic aptitude. 

Even with the help of student loans, I worked two jobs between classes – one under the table at a souvenir shop on Sparks Street, the other at Mags & Fags, a magazine & tobacco shop on Elgin. I was a regular at the Bank Street food bank and an occasional dumpster-diver. During this exact time, the CBC was making a movie based on the painful memories I was struggling so hard to repress. 

White Lies came out in the year of my second suicide attempt, the year I was first prescribed Prozac and could finally get through a night without PTSD-induced nightmares. While Moore was basking in a publicity blitz and CBC producers were attending Emmy and Gemini galas and getting nominations for a film that wouldn’t have existed without me, I did my best to block out my teenage years and pretended I was a different, normal girl. It was the key to my survival.

In 1998 I was living in a student rooming house and didn’t own a television set. I’d heard that the CBC had made a movie about Moore, but I don’t remember seeing the whole thing. Nor did I want to see it. It is entirely possible that I may have seen parts of it or a commercial, and blanked it out. 

Even after I clawed my way through university, winning scholarships, a place on my university’s fencing team, graduating magna cum laude (majored in criminology and psychology) – I didn’t feel I was enough. I hadn’t done it balletically, I didn’t glide through school with the flawless confidence of a girl whose achievements are celebrated by loving, devoted parents. No. I sweated, fought and bled for everything I earned.  

And so, as I lay in bed last month asking myself why I was fighting so hard to pursue a lawsuit with no precedents, despite the excruciating stress and the thousands of dollars it has already cost me – it came to me, an answer as luminous as the North star on that frozen December night:

For the first time in my life, I am fighting to be ME. Me – with all my scars, my accent, my shaking voice. I’m fighting for the truth, for my identity. No matter how ugly my past was, I am taking it back from those who appropriated it for profit. 

truth voice shakes meme

WHY I AM FIGHTING BACK

For $137, any Canadian can legally change their name – but the essence of your identity and likeness is not mutable or changeable because it is made up of unique lived experiences that compose the fabric of who you are.

I believe that human beings are more than a name – that, in fact, we are the product of our life experiences.  The sum total of who I am is not just my name – it is the combined sum of my lived experiences: my trauma, my courage, my fears, my faith and religious identity, my troubled youth and formative experiences, the events that I lived through and survived, the threats I endured and the challenges I’ve had to overcome. All of these experiences form my identity. 

So who am I? The hungry child on the streets of Bucharest? The scared teenager held at knifepoint? The young woman who tried to do the right thing only to see an agent provocateur’s crimes get covered up by CSIS, and unscrupulous filmmakers & profiteers exploit her life with impunity?

I am all of them. Like a dandelion bursting through the asphalt, I am defined by my survival, rendered courageous at the broken places. 

And now, the irony of fighting for my life – a life I hated, tried to end, depreciated for a lifetime; a life that had no worth for me beyond the pain that others sought to sensationalize.

Only then did my will to live kick in – to do this for the hopeless, the voiceless and unconnected, the underdogs whose stories go unheard, who can’t afford to fight back through the legal system. The poor and exploited who don’t have journalists in their back pockets and bands of cronies backing up a fraud. 

I am doing this for my dead deaf father – who didn’t think his artistic talent was good enough so he flawlessly reproduced the paintings of Impressionist masters; who grew embittered after being bullied by village boys, beaten by a world that doesn’t listen to deaf-mutes and immigrants, so he became the beater.

I am doing this for my dead deaf mother – raped as a young girl by villagers who thought she was an animal, who herded goats barefoot and slept in a barn, who was seen by her own mother as worthless, who never got justice so the anger coiled inside her breast and struck out at the world, passing its venom into her own child throughout a life entwined with misery and suffering.

I am doing this for me, despite the outrage and insults coming from activists who scorn me for suing people they consider worthier than me, above-reproach, whose character is never scrutinized while mine lays dissected, trampled in the mud. I am a wretched immigrant girl after all, and in this country the weight of truth depends on the perceived worth of those who speak it.

I am doing this for ME.   

All things and beings have their own, intrinsic, value – that is my lesson. 

Even the most “worthless” life, in the end, matters. 

Yes, even mine. 

 

Posted in canada, cbc, crime, csis, dennis foon, elizabeth moore, grant bristow, heritage front, history, identity, jewish, journalism, life, movie, news, politics, press, rodney bobiwash, sarah polley, truth, white lies | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

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 teenager 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.

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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. Today she’s 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 1992-1995, as well as court documentation – from my trial testimony against Wolfgang Droege and his boys.

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1992 Globe & Mail article that describes me (using the alias surname Deschner) as the new, softer face of the movement – a line taken by Dennis Foon and used on the cover of White Lies. 

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 sexual 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 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: http://elisahategan.com/press_clips

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

Please note that this blog post was originally published on February 23, 2015. 

Posted in 1mooreliz, cbc, dennis foon, elizabeth moore, heritage front, onemooreliz, thelizbuzz | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 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.

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

White Lies is based on Elisa Hategan’s life

Posted by E on March 6, 2018

white lies is based on elisa hategan

White Lies is based on Elisa Hategan’s life

For the record, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s 1998 movie White Lies, starring Sarah Polley, is based on my life. I have all the verifiable news clippings to prove a vast majority of scenes were based on my life. I also have email correspondence from a former consultant of the film – which demonstrates how the film producer researched my life via court records and interviews with people who knew me at the time, in order to write his script.

Specifically, the scenes were lifted from my 1994 trial testimony against the Heritage Front white supremacists, and my 1995 testimony in the House of Commons, along with the extensive press coverage in the Ontario newspapers that covered my story. When examined frame-by-frame, approx. 80% of scenes from White Lies can be directly traced to Elisa Hategan.

However, I never received any compensation or credit for a movie (an unauthorized biography) that wouldn’t have existed without me. After I testified against neo-Nazis at only 19, and 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, a film that shared MY LIFE with millions of viewers.

Shame on all those who exploited a teenage girl who had nothing but the truth on her side. For more details and to see the articles that formed the basis for the screenplay, please visit my website’s Press Clips section.  

If you’re interested in finding out more resources about radicalization, extremism and the process of indoctrination, or know someone who is at risk of being radicalized, please message me. To book me for a speaking engagement, lecture, keynote or workshop at your event or to request more information about topics of interest, please visit my Speaking page to view options and contact me.

Posted in dennis foon, elizabeth moore, history, news, press, press release, sarah polley | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

White Lies: How the CBC Stole my Story

Posted by E on January 10, 2018

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 teenager 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. Today she is 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 1992-1995, 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

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

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 sexual 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

Moore telling me in a 2014 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 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: http://elisahategan.com/press_clips

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, crime, dennis foon, elizabeth moore, liz frederiksen, movie, news, sarah polley, truth | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

An Open Letter to the Toronto Star and Jennifer Yang about Grant Bristow and the It Campaign

Posted by E on April 10, 2017

 

  

Please note: The letter I am posting below, in bold font, was written today by Martin Theriault of the Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice and has just been sent to the editors at Toronto Star and the journalist who wrote a slanted piece on Grant Bristow without bothering to check all her facts. I am pasting his letter here without Martin’s permission, because I want everyone out there who cares about truth and good journalism practices to know what is really going on.

I am too upset at this time to write my own rebuttal, but will do so in the coming weeks. However, I am ready and eager to present actual evidence – affidavits, along with correspondence between prominent human rights attorneys Paul Copeland and Clayton Ruby and Metro Toronto Police re. charging Bristow for actual crimes. Any media persons who are interested in actually knowing what really happened back then can contact me via my website’s Contact Me form.

I refuse to link to Jennifer Yang’s shoddy piece of “journalism” for the following reasons:

1) Ms. Yang didn’t even bother to contact me for an interview prior to going to press, even though her office’s IP address was recorded by Statcounter approx. a dozen times, scouring this blog for my Bristow pieces. And in spite of the fact she actually followed me on Twitter! Despite being considered an important witness on Bristow and Operation Governor and asked to testify in the House of Commons in 1995 about the illegal activities I witnessed Bristow commit, Toronto Star’s Yang didn’t deem my knowledge worth even a 5-minute interview.

2) While I am glad that she at least thought to contact Bill Dunphy, Yang neglected to fact-check with other seasoned journalists who investigated Bristow, such as Andrew Mitrovica. However much I disagree with some points of his Walrus piece, his knowledge of Bristow’s actions is worth taking another 5 minutes to contact – that is, if you are trying to write an unbiased, legitimate piece of journalism.

3) Yang made no attempt to interview any women – whether me as an eyewitness or the women who were terrorized by Bristow. Who knows, perhaps our gender disqualifies us from commenting on CSIS and political affairs. Again, I would have been glad to connect her to some of Bristow’s former victims or at least show her evidence of their assault and harassment, but she didn’t think I needed to be contacted.

4) Yang glossed over a very serious attempt by Grant Bristow sometime in 2010 to undermine then-Edmonton Jewish mayor Stephen Mendel’s electoral campaign by assuming a fake journalist persona and conducting an interview that resulted in Bristow being slapped with a libel charge. This, plus the Fifth Estate-recorded testimonies of many of the strippers who were around Grant Bristow during his stint as a failed strip-club comedian should go to revealing the character of a man who was paid, in total (before and after entering the Witness Protection Program) hundreds of thousands of dollars – and never led to a single arrest and conviction of a Canadian white supremacist.

5) There is ZERO proof of an attempted Heritage Front attack on Bernie Farber or the CJC – if this was more than fabrication on Bristow and his handler’s part, why did we not hear about this before CSIS went into damage control mode? What better way to neutralize outrage from the Jewish community but concoct a story about averting the assassination of one of its prominent spokesmen? If it were true, why wasn’t Wolfgang Droege or whoever discussed such an attempt ever charged with conspiracy to commit murder, or terrorist plotting, or whatever?

The answer is simple – because it didn’t happen. Or someone would have been charged and convicted, pure and simple. When I met Bernie Farber at his office back in 2014 and we discussed my book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-Up, of which he was extremely complimentary of and displayed it on his bookshelf, he privately expressed to me his own doubts about that plot – along with referring to Bristow as a “schmuck”.

Grant Bristow’s sole purpose was to be an architect of the Heritage Front and build it to the point where crime would occur to justify the operation. Somewhere along the way, he turned into the rogue agent provocateur who compelled many dangerous neo-Nazis and even an underage girl like me to commit crimes – even going so far as to hand us lists of names, home and work addresses, and the telephone numbers of the people he wanted us to terrorize.

And when  he was finally questioned about Heritage Front crimes, including his own participation, CSIS provided him with a lawyer and coached him on how to avoid offering any self-incriminating answers when questioned by Metro Toronto police (see letter photo above) and essentially hinder any and all investigations.

For Toronto Star to quote Grant Bristow on the dangers of white supremacy is tantamount to allowing an unrepentant ISIS jihadist the platform to preach about the dangers of Islamic fundamentalism. It’s contrived, ill-thought, fake and utterly reprehensible.

Without further ado, here is Martin Theriault’s letter to the Toronto Star in response to the piece published by Jennifer Yang in yesterday’s paper.

Date: 2017-04-10 16:20 GMT-04:00
Subject: About Bristow and your story of April,9, 2017-
To: jyang@thestar.ca, publiced@thestar.ca

My name is Martin Thériault. At the time of the Heritage Front and the Bristow affair, I was the coordinator of the Canadian Center on Racism and Prejudice (CCRP). I have been involved in the anti-racist movement in Canada and abroad since 1979. I was a very active element in confronting hate and bigotry in all parts of Canada. At the time, I was the one that got Elisse Hategan out of the Heritage Front and was a key member in organizing the prosecutions of Wolfgang Droege and his associates at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The chief prosecutor, Eddie Taylor, counsel of the Cdn Human Rights Commission, was able to get a conviction and sending these neo-nazis to jail and stop the operation of their hateline with the testimony of Elisse Hategan. The judge commended the excellent testimony of Ms. Hategan in his ruling of the case.

At these hearings, Grant Bristow was the chief organizer for the defense of the Heritage Front leadership, providing materials in the hope to discredit the testimony of Ms. Hategan. His work failed and the neo-nazis were sent to jail. Even at that time, neo-nazis from the Hammerskin movement came up from Buffalo, NY on the clear purpose of doing a job on Ms.Hategan, myself and the late Rodney Bobiwash, also from the CCRP and the Native Center of Toronto. This was a key moment and Bristow worked extensively to develop a defense strategy for the nazis! This is IT for such so-called great canadian!

Bristow was a member of a rogue unit of CSIS in Toronto. His handler,and his staff, did everything they could to support Bristow in his work. Al’s angels, as we referred to them, were always in attendance at the hearings. Ms.Hategan, myself and Eddie Taylor had to fight our ways to get police protection during these hearings. 

Bristow never sent anyone in jail. In your article, you mention that he was instrumental in the arrest of the donut shop gang(Barker and friends). Actually, this is also a fabrication. Weeks before, the OPP and Metro Police had signed affidavits from Ms. Hategan on weapons cache of some of these elements. When the info went up the chain of command, no actions were taken and a source confirmed to us that the top levels have received info NOT to support or do anything about the information contained in the affidavits!!!!

Bristow did nothing in respect to deportation of international white supremacists from Canada. In the Metzger’s case, even with an APB sent by Immigration Criminal investigation Unit to all entry points, the HF sent one of their boys to pick them up and got them into Canada. Bristow was the chief of security and intelligence of the Heritage Front. To say that he did not know the operation is ridiculous at best.

At the same time, CSIS made up a story that the Metzger’s planned to storm Queen’s Park or the House of Commons. The RCMP sent in a squad, a wrong one by the way, to arrest the Metzger’s after their speech at the Latvian Hall. I was with Mr. Bobiwash, a witness at the scene of the take down. For that made up story, the handler received a commendation from Ottawa!!!! In respect to Maguire, in Canada illegally and staying at Bristow’s apartment, he was arrested with Bristow with weapons and later deported. Maguire was, for anti-racist researchers on both side of the borders, an FBI informant on Aryan Nations and other organizations. As for Dennis Mahon, well, he was arrested by immigration at Pearson’s by immigration officials while Bristow was waiting at the arrival point. He was also put on questions by immigration officials but his handler showed up to get him out.

Bristow did the campaign for criminal harassment of anti-racists by members of the Heritage Front. Close to 100 people were the victims of that campaign, at home, at work and even at doctor’s appointment.

He trained, lead and organized the campaign. Some people lost their job, had to move out of Ontario, some victims of physical assaults. One social worker who had the greatness of adopting an afro-canadian child suffered dire consequences from that campaign. Her house was spray-painted, the tires of her car slashed. They also made an anonymous call to Children’s service to claim she was abusing her adopted child!!!

Only by the testimonies of the Police  chief of Toronto at the time and members of the city council, the claim was rejected based on the fact that it was baseless accusations and made by Heritage Front members. Her only crime- she was involved in forming the Riverdale Citizens coalition against racism, a group of local residents who just didn’t want to have neo-nazis in their area and provide education on racism and bigotry.

Bristow made up stories in his interview. This is the way he works all his life. When exposed, he got a well-paid pensions, a new house, a new car, a new identity and even some free connections to his family and free trips paid by the money of canadian taxpayers. He now says to be in the marketing business! It is interesting that he finds the SIRC report to be an honest recollection of what he did! In fact, SIRC made a report without any involvements or testimonies from the victims or anti-racists. I remember once a member of the Solicitor-general’s office asking what would they need to get out of that mess. I told him there was no exit from the truth and the whitewash report of SIRC would only deepens the cover-up of the rogue unit that Bristow was part of. 

Finally, I can only hope that you read the book of Elisse Hategan Race Traitor-The true story of Canadian Intelligence’s greatest cover-up. You will not find all the story but important parts of it in regards to Bristow’s real activities. Ms. Hategan went into hiding with the support of community members and anti-racists. She never got anything from the State, while Bristow is day-dreaming in the Foothills for his agent-provocateur work paid by Canadian taxpayers. One word, watch the tapes of Bristow’s speeches at neo-nazi rallies and he was shouting White Power! and as for the white powder, this is the one he is directing to medias in order to manipulate canadians.

I am still working against hate and bigotry. If you want , you can contact me at this e-mail address.

Martin Thériault
Research group on the far-right and its allies

http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/HOC/Archives/Committee/351/sena/evidence/19_95-06-13/sena19_blk-e.html

 

Posted in canada, grant bristow, news, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Speaking Engagements coming up this spring

Posted by E on February 10, 2017

race-traitor-flyer-hadassah-talk

This spring I will be speaking at Limmud Toronto, for Hadassah-WIZO, at a couple of Toronto synagogues, at SUNY (State University of New York) and at Montreal’s Vanier Symposium on the Holocaust and Genocide. Please join me at any of these events and help continue the discussion against right-wing extremism, racism, anti-Semitism, white supremacist crime and the alt-Right.

My first talk is coming up on Thursday March 9th at 7:30 PM, at an event organized by Canadian Hadassah-WIZO CHW and sponsored by Toronto law firm Gelman and Associates, and Budovitch Legacy Planning. It’s going to be a fantastic & informative evening, so put it in your calendar and feel free to share the link!

Next, I am so excited to have been invited to be a presenter at Limmud Toronto 2017, which will take place on Sunday, March 19. Limmud is an international “festival of Jewish learning that celebrates the rich diversity of Jewish culture and heritage.” It takes place annually in several countries and brings together members of the Jewish community, who all connect and exchange stories and presentations on a wide array of topics of interest to the Jewish community ranging from politics, religion, family, education, feminism and history to cultural multimedia such as film, music and dance.

My presentation ‘Hearts of Hate: Confessions of a Teenage Neo-Nazi’ is at 12:00 PM and is scheduled for only 45-minutes but I look forward to connecting with everyone before, during and after the talk!

limmud-toronto-2017

There are several other events that I will update as I go along, but won’t do it too prematurely. I have made the decision not to post dates to my speaking engagements too early due to stalkers and potential threats from neo-Nazis. Early in January I had to file a police report about threats and harassment I received subsequent to being quoted in an article that appeared in the National Post in December 2016 and which critiqued a popular Canadian white supremacist named Veronica Bouchard, aka “Evalion”.

After being quoted just once, I was sent ugly messages via my website and blog – nasty messages targeting me as well as Joseph Brean, the journalist who wrote the piece, and another former Heritage Front individual whose name had also been included in the article.

Let me tell you, nothing beats getting threatening emails over the holidays and New Year. Following that article, I was in contact with other journalists who had covered “Evalion” in the news and were subsequently targeted for harassment and abuse via Twitter and email. White supremacists even went so far as to buy Brean’s firstandlastname.com domain and created a website where they are falsely accusing him of being a pedophile and hitman.

These are highly-seasoned, senior journalists who were threatened, and I was encouraged by one of them to go to police. I was connected to the particular hate crimes unit detectives via B’nai Brith, who also encouraged me to report this. Even though I’m no stranger when it comes to encountering online trolls, it still came as a shock that something like this could happen simply for being quoted in an article.

In the days that followed, I was additionally targeted for cyber-abuse from Veronica, the neo-Nazi young woman who was profiled in the National Post piece, along with her anonymous Twitter groupies. Things were said to me both in public and private that led me to feel seriously threatened and I had no recourse but to appeal to police. Thankfully, Veronica’s Twitter account was subsequently shut down but I’m certain it’ll pop right back up or under a different handle soon enough despite the fact there are several ongoing investigations into her alleged hate activities. Still, I don’t feel it’s in my best interest to announce my future talks until just a couple of weeks prior to the events.

I am also scheduled to speak at the Vanier Symposium on Holocaust and Genocide, at SUNY (State University of New York) and at a couple of Toronto-area synagogues. Please check back next month as I will update this post with the dates and details of those events. As always, I’m grateful for your support and look forward to connecting with you guys this spring!

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A Year of Light and Darkness

Posted by E on December 30, 2016

elisa-dec2016As 2016 comes to an end, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what has been a very transformative year for me. An extremely difficult one as well since this month marks one year since my mother’s death last December, and her loss still feels altogether raw and very recent.

But it’s also been marked by some personal and professional accomplishments: I travelled to South America for the first time on a research project, and I’ve finally completed my last course for my Social Media Marketing Certificate from George Brown college! I must confess, I was waiting to earn this degree before I publish my new Art of Social Media Marketing for Creatives book, and now it’s going through the final edits before heading off to the printer.

I wanted to also touch upon some memorable highlights. When it comes to publications, there are three I am most proud of this year:

1. In March I published my literary novel Daughters of the Air, which interweaves the tragic tale of Adele Hugo, a retelling of The Little Mermaid fairytale and a modern-day timeline into a story of obsession, reincarnation and exploration of everlasting love. It’s tone is similar to The Red Violin and Posession, in that it’s a haunting love story that spans three continents, three timelines and three hundred years – a search for the root of heartbreak that involves mermaids, political activists and haunted geniuses. It flows from Paris to the Channel Islands, from spiritualist séances to the austere coastlines of Nova Scotia.

I am extremely proud of this book and I really hope you guys will get a chance to read it, because I poured all my heart into this one and it’s by far my most ambitious novel.

Daughters of the Air  CV2 cover  CV2 poem

2. In April, my villanelle poem One Europe was published in one of Canada’s oldest literary journals Contemporary Verse 2: The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing (CV2). It’s the only national poetry magazine that continues to publish four times a year and I was so excited to be included in the Spring 2016 edition. I was inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art to create a similar pattern, and I’m so very glad that I wrote it. A villanelle has a very complicated rhyming pattern and creating it was a lot of work, but the joy and sense of accomplishment I felt for being able to create something this complex was tremendously rewarding.

3. In July, my editorial article was published in the Canadian Jewish News in a three-page spread. Moreover, it actually made the front cover for that week’s print edition! Nothing beats receiving a congratulatory message from my former university professor, mentor and self-described “Jewish uncle”, renowned Canadian poet Seymour Mayne, praising me for having my article featured on the cover – he’d just received it in the mail hours before Shabbat, and it made our weekend.

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Although I would gladly have written the piece for free, getting a cheque from the CJN for the article was a great feeling. Depending on Patreon, writing grants, freelancing projects crowdfunding sites to keep writing full-time is a haphazard, unpredictable process that can get stressful. A lot of people read my blog but very few realize just how time-consuming writing can be, and how generating money is a persistent issue. If everyone who reads my blog donated a single dollar to my Patreon fund each month, I would have a full-time income.

I’ve been a blogger and freelance journalist for years, but my work often went unpaid. My experience with CJN taught me that I can effectively pitch and sell articles to major publications, which has shifted my perspective and made me more ambitious about pursuing paid gigs with established publications. Who knows, lighting could strike twice and I might get another article to grace a front cover someday!

Elisa HasdeuIn the coming year I intend to work more on commissioned articles and less on regular blogging. Actually, I spent the early part of summer taking online courses to earn my certificate in Journalism from Michigan State University. Although I don’t believe that a formal degree is necessary in an oversaturated field where very few can find full-time employment, I see reporting, blogging and freelance work as a continuum in 21st century journalism. In a world where an increasing number of mainstream reporters are being laid off and digital publications redefine the profession, the lines between mainstream reporter, blogger and independent journalist have become blurred.

But don’t fret, my friends! Even though I will be making paid freelance work a priority, I could never give up blogging altogether – it’s become second nature to me. I started blogging in 2007 or -8 and it’s been such a helpful outlet of emotional and artistic expression for me, not to mention that I’ve met so many great people through it.

But time will be an issue. This spring I am booked for approx. eight to ten speaking engagements throughout Ontario and Quebec. In March I will be a speaker at a conference where Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion, former Attorney General Irwin Cotler and several United Nations staffers will also be presenting. It’s also a great opportunity to meet others involved in human rights, genocide documentation and social justice issues.

Afterwards I will be interviewed for a PBS special which will be filmed in NY state. I’ve also been asked to speak at SUNY that week.

Between the speaking engagements, a commissioned book I’m working on for a client and writing my own memoir, time is a commodity that I will have to plan carefully. Still, the excitement of achieving so many personal goals is more powerful than my ubiquitous jitters of speaking in front of large audiences.

Under a Trump presidency and alt-right governance, more than ever, it’s an important time to be a journalist and activist. I look forward to bringing my story, knowledge and expertise about extremist movements to a broader audience.

This year I was a consultant on a short documentary about Ernst Zundel‘s former home, titled ‘206 Carlton‘, produced by a Ryerson University Documentary Media student. I was also quoted in several articles about the resurgence of the ultra-right wing in Canada, such as:

CityNews: Alleged Toronto neo-Nazi publication expands west, pestering downtowners

National Post: ‘Hitler actually wasn’t that bad’: How Neo-Nazis are using attractive young women to boost their movement

All of this has led to a sharp rise of hate tweets, Facebook messages and threatening emails coming at me from social media trolls emboldened by Trump’s win to the point of delusion. Par for the course, I suppose – though the vile anti-Semitic, misogynist words reveal the persons behind them for the pathetic cowards that they are.

Lastly, I’m proud of an extensive, in-depth interview I did with author Samita Sarkar of Blossoms Writing. It’s a worthwhile discussion to check out if you’re interested in knowing more about me, the story behind Race Traitor and its aftermath.

So on this note, I wish all of you love and light for the New Year. May your 2017 be bright and inspiring, and remember – tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one!

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If you enjoyed the read and wish to support a creative writer, please consider dropping a dollar in my Patreon donation jar 🙂 

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A Winter Wonderland at Grail Springs Wellness Retreat

Posted by E on December 12, 2016

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Grail Springs is a beautiful property with great energy in Bancroft, Ontario. Called “The Holy Grail of mind and body retreats” by the Toronto Star, this unique place has won the Best Retreat in Canada award by World Spa Association and ranks high on TripAdvisor’s 2016 Traveler’s Choice. And yes, that is an actual moat (crossing a little creek) that leads to the medieval storybook castle turret entrance!

With packages starting at almost $400 nightly per person, this place has acquired a certain reputation as an exclusive destination for pampering the mind as well as the spirit. It has only 13 rooms, an amazing lounge room that rivals Deerhurst’s, and several rooms for yoga, meditation, hydrotherapy and body works. Outdoors there are hiking paths, a large lake, horse stables where you can sign up for horseback rides, and a garden labyrinth.

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Photo courtesy of the Toronto Star, Dec. 2016

And now I’m here!

One of the perks of having a partner who runs workshops all over the place is that whenever we travel on business our accommodations are covered – and sometimes we get to visit some amazing places like this one.

While my partner teaches seminars, I explore the property and get an opportunity for some rest and rejuvenation.

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I’m convinced that we have one of the best rooms in the entire place  – it’s an upgraded deluxe room and faces this huge forest and a narrow creek that runs behind the property. The room has a fireplace, chaise lounge, a super-comfortable bed and a lovely carved wood desk where I will be spending quite a bit of time for the next four nights and three days working on my writing projects.

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This is the last week of my George Brown social media marketing classes. Tonight, after I submit my final project assignments for two separate classes, I will be officially done! I held back on publishing my social media guidebook because I had so much schoolwork to get through, but also partly because I wanted to graduate the program and get my official certificate so that I could include my new credentials in the book.

Tomorrow I will get back to working on said book, but in the meanwhile there is beauty to behold. Look at the view from our deck!

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The first thing I did when I got up this morning was walk around the property and take lots of photos of the woods and the frozen lake. Here are the outdoor sauna and hot tub, where we’ll probably hang out this evening. Also a view of the woods, stretching toward the lake (which you can’t see because it’s covered with snow).

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Everywhere I look around this retreat, there are woven tapestries and wood carvings, plush sofas and ornate furniture, soft music and aromatherapy candles.

Here is the incredible lounge – which is completely empty at most times since the guests are attending various classes and spa therapies (I’m not on a package, so I’m free to schedule my day as I wish). I can’t believe I had it all to myself – though later on I met Ojoe, the resident pooch 🙂

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The room has crystals, singing bowls, a tea station and a slab of natural amethyst that glows vibrant purple.

img_5884I spotted a deck of oracle cards that has been left out for the guests, and I decided to draw a card to see what message I would get from the universe.

This is what I picked: Metamorphosis.

The card’s meaning, according to the guidebook:

“You are in the process of deep and beautiful change.

Butterflies earn their wings through great effort. The process of change is often painful, for it is never without losses and sacrifices….

Despite your fear, you must accept that this is a transformational time for you. There will be some loss involved, but you’ll love what you become.”

It’s a winter wonderland here, and oh so beautiful. There is much peace and serenity in the air. After everything that’s happened over the last year, I definitely needed this getaway. And who knows – perhaps I am indeed on the brink of a beautiful transformation. 🙂

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The Truth about Bucharest School no. 19

Posted by E on December 2, 2016

scoala-19

This note was originally posted in October 2016 on the Facebook wall of ‘Scoala nr. 19’ – the Bucharest elementary school I attended between ages 6-11.

This spring the nightmares came back. Hardly a month goes by without a flashback, but after my mother died in December 2015, everything that happened to me in Romania intensified. The last 30 years of my life have been a nightmare, and much of it stems from what happened to me in Bucharest, at Scoala Nr. 19.

I write this note in English because it’s the language I’ve spoken for the last 30 years. My parents are both dead, and I don’t have any Romanian friends in Toronto, Canada, where I emigrated at age 11 before the 1989 Romanian Revolution that toppled dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. I feel awkward expressing my emotions in Romanian, but the scars of what happened to me at Scoala nr. 19 still haven’t faded. Pain doesn’t fade with time. Sexual exploitation has consequences, especially at a fragile, tender age.

I was 9 years old when my mother defected from communist Romania, four years before Ceausescu’s regime was defeated. My father was 68 years old and didn’t want a child; his long-time affair with his mistress was all that he cared about. I was nine years old when my father began to lock me out of our apartment on Magheru Boulevard, and when I realized for the first time that nobody cared if I lived or died.

At nine years old I was skinny, always hungry, and most of all – afraid. The boys at my school started to pick on me – none worse than Marc Faur, the gang leader of a posse of boys who made my life miserable. He sensed who the most vulnerable, defenceless kids were in our school and honed in on me.

Those boys attacked me before and after school – kicked me, grabbed at my breasts, and Marc always made sure to punch me in the stomach with as much power and force as he could muster. They stole my innocence and at only ten years old, they made me feel that I was worthless, garbage and should kill myself.

Marc Faur hit me almost every day, making me feel dirty and afraid because nobody else tried to defend me. I know what it’s like to double over in pain, gasping – choked out of breath, feeling as worthless as a cockroach. Feeling that nobody gives a shit about me, that anybody can do whatever they want to me with impunity. I was alone, and Marc – well, Marc was the Pioneer President of Class E. His mother was a renowned opera singer, while my own parents were deaf. Worthless.

After my mother defected on a trip to Italy in 1985, my father and me were labeled political traitors. No teachers gave a shit about me.

The teachers knew better than to pick on Faur, and consequently he became our class bully. Marc Faur was a big, overweight boy and I was scrawny and unloved. Nobody cared how much I cried behind the school gymnasium, how hungry I was because nobody had packed a lunch for me.

Our teacher, Tovarasa Elena Hlatcu, sent notes to my father that my hair wasn’t brushed and I hadn’t washed my face. She sent notes after my period started, saying that “Someone should make sure the child is clean and doesn’t smell so awful.”

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My father didn’t give a shit. I lived on the streets most of the time, fending off pedophiles, depending on my best friend’s family to feed me. I was a proud girl and never asked for food, but I didn’t turn away any sandwiches or leftovers, either. Marc and Silviu Constantin abused me in every way possible – kicking me, spitting on me, grabbing my breasts, punching me in the gut, and Marc Faur went so far as to look for cockroaches and drop them in my hair.

Marc wrote horrible things on the blackboard, calling me a whore, and (as always) punched me in the stomach and in the breasts, with as much force as he could. Others, like Dan Popescu didn’t care about my abuse; they were too delicate to hit me themselves, so they looked the other way. Even as boys teased, hit and abused me, Dan (who was the only boy I ever had a crush on) looked the other way.

To this day, I am terrified of bugs. I relieve what Marc did every moment I step into the shower and wash my hair.

To this day, often I look in the mirror I am embarrassed by the size of my breasts. Silviu and Faur did this – they made me feel like garbage. They assaulted me while (at only ten and eleven years old) I felt too worthless and ashamed to tell our teacher or my father, who probably would have beaten me for causing trouble.

Thirty years have passed. I am forty years old, but the trauma those boys caused me was worse than a sexual assault – it has permeated every pore of my being. It made me feel ugly and unloved. It made me feel disgusted with my own body, which I felt had betrayed me. As a teenager, I started picking, cutting at my skin; I hated every bit of me. I was as worthless as they made me feel – even worse.

The trauma that I experienced at Scoala Nr. 19 is still part of my daily life. To this day, nobody has apologized for destroying my innocence and causing me the nightmares that still return today. Nobody has apologized for making me feel ashamed of my body, for the disgusting words I still hear inside my head today.

But I have nothing left to lose – and I’m no longer willing to remain ashamed and feel worthless just to cover up what those boys did to me. They physically and sexually abused me. They raped my innocence, and I don’t owe them anything.

I refuse to be silent anymore.

Writing this post is part of empowering myself again – reclaiming the power that they stole from me.

Postscript: after I came forward with the truth about what happened to me, on Oct. 27 I received an “apology” via email from the bully ringleader of the abuse, Marc Faur, saying he was sorry for “not being nice” to me.

marc faur apology

“Not nice” meant beating me during recess, among other things.

I rejected the apology because it wasn’t genuine and decided to write openly about it and post about it on his Facebook page this past week.

For the last 48 hours I’ve received hate-filled messages from his friends in Romania, telling me to “Go fuck yourself”, “you’re deranged”, and calling me terrible insults and names. This is without them knowing any evidence.

THIS is the reason women and girls don’t report abuse.

Soon they enlisted Facebook friends to attack me – friends who weren’t even Romanian and had no clue about what happened in the 1980s. Foreign friends who simply wanted justification to attack a stranger.

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In the last 48 hours I also received messages asking me to excuse the actions of 11-year old boys. But none of those requests acknowledged the trauma caused to a 10-year old girl. Just because this happened decades ago does not lower the impact, the pain, the consequences of their abuse on my life.

Why are girls considered worthless compared to boys?

Why is my trauma considered worthless?

costin-craioveanu

Former classmate Costin Craioveanu writes on Marc Faur’s Facebook wall: “I remember her…a superb being…it was impossible not to abuse her.”

This is pathetic – it’s bullying, and it’s NOT right. Abuse does NOT have an expiration date.

December 4 update: Other women have approached me with memories of being assaulted by boys at my old school. A model whose photos are pictured on Faur’s Photography page also contacted me privately. Another woman spoke about being raped by a boy from School no. 19, but from a different graduating year.

Last night I also spoke with an old classmate who was also beaten and abused by Marc Faur and shared the effects it had on her life. I hid her identity to protect her privacy and ensure she won’t suffer the abuse I’ve received over the last week. However, her story is important and needs to be heard. Her account is written in Romanian, but states that she was repeatedly emotionally and physically abused by Marc Faur.

We are not alone!

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Tracing the footsteps of Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil

Posted by E on November 4, 2016

elisa-ouro-preto-bridge-2016

Like many people, I discovered Elizabeth Bishop one evening in 2013 by scrolling through the newest offerings on Netflix, and choosing a movie called Reaching for the Moon. Unbeknownst to me, the story I watched that night would be the start of a new adventure – one that would lead me into foreign territory and transform my poetry in infinitesimal ways.

Much like Elizabeth’s own journey, in fact.

elizabeth-bishopWhen she was 40 years old, American poet Elizabeth Bishop decided it was time to leave New York. She had reached a dead end both in her personal life (after a break-up with a long-time lover) and in her stagnant creativity, which resulted in a dry spell from publishing. Also struggling with alcoholism, Elizabeth longed for a new start, some way to rejuvenate her spirit and retrigger her inspiration. Receiving a fellowship from Bryn Mawr College was a godsend, and she decided that she would travel around the world.

She telephoned the naval port and was told that the next available freighter was leaving for South America. Impulsively, she reserved a spot.

In November of 1951, Bishop boarded the Norwegian freighter S.S. Bowplate. Unbeknownst to her, the journey would change her life forever. The first port she arrived at was Santos, and what was meant to be a brief sojourn to visit with an old school chum from Vassar, Mary Morse, turned into an eighteen-year stay that would profoundly affect the rest of her life.

Toward the end of her vacation, Elizabeth fell ill from a violent allergic reaction to a cashew fruit and had to be hospitalized. While being nursed back to health, her relationship with Mary Morse’s Brazilian lover Lota deepened and grew more intense. Soon Lota de Macedo Soares, a self-taught architect from a prominent upper-class political family, broke up with Mary Morse and persuaded Elizabeth to stay in Brazil and move into Lota’s sprawling estate home at Samambaia, in the hills above Petropolis.

With Lota’s affection, Elizabeth flourished. It was there, amidst the lush jungle foliage and under Lota’s care, that Elizabeth wrote the poetry that would win her a Pulitzer prize and turn her into a world-renowned poet.

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After watching Reaching for the Moon, I was convinced that I couldn’t stand Elizabeth Bishop. Her weakness, her repeated cheating on Lota, her complete dependence on alcohol as a way to relinquish personal responsibility. But out of curiosity, I wanted to see for myself if she was all she’s cracked up to be. Soon I would discover just how inaccurate the film was, and run into interviews that revealed director Bruno Barreto’s obsession with stylistic themes over historical accuracy. Like many biographical films, truth and historical fact was sacrificed to the artistic vision of a straight male director who’d never heard of Elizabeth Bishop before he read the script.

I would also discover that Elizabeth’s characterization in the film paled in comparison to the real person, both in physique and in spirit. Bishop didn’t resemble the tall, slender, cool, passive-aggressive character played by Miranda Otto. The real Elizabeth was short (only 5’4) and stout, intensely emotional, at times difficult, with an inner fire that was apparent to all who knew her. As the years progressed, her relationship with Lota became increasingly codependent. Paradoxically, the stronger she grew, the weaker Lota became. It would all come to a tragic end after Elizabeth traveled back to the US to teach at NYU and recently hospitalized Lota (against medical advice) decided to visit her in September 1967. On her first night in New York, Lota took an overdose of tranquilizers and fell into a coma, dying a few days later.

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Lota de Macedo Soares

After Lota’s death, Elizabeth was shunned by her Brazilian friends and Lota’s relatives. She was forced to sell her Ouro Preto home and the Rio apartment bequeathed to her by Lota after Lota’s sister contested the will. Elizabeth soon realized that she had no future in Brazil without Lota and reluctantly moved back to the United States, eventually teaching at Harvard until her death in 1979.

Over the weeks and months to come, I would devour all Bishop-related material I could get my hands on. Soon I discovered that she had written much more than just poetry, and I was hooked. After Poems: North & South. A Cold Spring and Questions of Travel, I ordered her prose, correspondence, her incomplete, posthumously-published drafts and at least two biographies.

It started out as a hobby – reading all of Bishop’s writing. I spent an entire summer in my garden, reading book after book. Why? I still don’t know. Like Bishop’s feelings about Brazil, liking her didn’t come naturally. Some of her writing made me angry or befuddled me. I complained to my partner of how much I couldn’t stand Bishop-the-person, only to find myself returning to Bishop-the-writer’s work the next day.

It might sound crazy to most people. Why would I become inexplicably obsessed with a woman who died nearly forty years ago, a poet who was my complete antagonist? Why did I keep going down the Bishop rabbit hole instead of putting away her books? What kept me so engaged even as I complained about how weak and conflicted she was?

For all its flaws and incorrect depictions, Reaching for the Moon was a watershed moment for Bishop’s memory, leading many to look up her biography and (re)discover the small body of writing she had left behind. Until the film came out Bishop was a minor poet, largely forgotten by the masses and hardly ever studied in creative writing classes.

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Elizabeth Bishop in college

In all my writing classes over the years, Bishop’s poetry has never been covered. It’s easy to see why – shy and reticent to share the personal or make it political in an age when her compatriots (see Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton) found their stardom by turning their inner angst into poetic magic, she isn’t exactly an obvious choice for later generations, for youngsters who have been taught that the personal is political.

In contrast with the passionate, vibrant experimentation of the Beat Generation, Bishop’s classic approach to literature and her staunch avoidance to confront political and feminist discourse in her work rendered her an almost obsolete vestige of a repressed generation.

As a young poet, I was dazzled by the raw honesty of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Bukowski, swept away by Plath’s confessional brutality. Writers like Bishop and her idol, Marianne Moore, did nothing for me. I saw them as Vassar-reared, elitist upper class dilettantes who refused to address the sweeping changes of their time – they met in cafés and parlours to exchange and review each other’s couplets rather than discuss the Second World War that raged around them, the civil rights movement that brought equality to racial and sexual minorities.

Our poetic styles couldn’t be more different. I was as bold as Bishop was reticent; I challenged the establishment with the same ferocity she had retained while ignoring any criticisms of the government of her day. Her refusal to be included in feminist or women-only anthologies (underscored by the belief that it would somehow reduce her worth as a poet), her reluctance to openly come out as a lesbian even after the advent of gay liberation, all go against the grain of my own belief system.

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Lota de Macedo Soares

Only in my late thirties could I have begun to appreciate the quiet strength that resides in Bishop’s poetry. I still can’t say that I like the woman on a personal level, but there is something about her that fascinates me. I’ve read passages of her letters (as addressed to Robert Lowell) that I found incensing, even borderline racist and contemptuous toward those less privileged than her – opinions no doubt amplified by being in the company of the Brazilian elites of the day. But there is also an overwhelming defiance in her writing, interweaved in equal parts with fear, hope and childlike wonder all at the same time.

Emboldened by my connection to Bishop’s work, I wrote my first villanelle One Europe after being inspired by One Art. And as soon as I submitted it, it was accepted for publication in Canada’s oldest poetry journal, CV2 (Contemporary Verse 2). I wrote a second poem, set in Brazil, and once again it attracted attention and a mentorship with a renowned Canadian poet. Clearly, Elizabeth Bishop’s influences on my own writing had produced results.

A year later, after I’d made my way through her entire correspondence and translations, going so far as to acquire some first editions of her books (including Life World Library’s Brazil), I realized that I had become a self-taught Bishop scholar. With that realization came the knowledge that I had to confront my own feelings and try to understand what it was about Elizabeth Bishop that both attracted and still repelled me. As it often is, people who trigger strong feelings in you are actually reflections of your own self, mirroring some part of self-identity that you refuse to see.

I realized how much I was like her. All the things I hated about her work were things I hated in myself. I wished she had been stronger, that she could have come out as a feminist or lesbian poet, but it took me years to allow my own identity to seep into my writing.

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Elizabeth Bishop with Tobias the Cat in 1954

We live in an age that worships youth and carries the unspoken message that if you haven’t “made it” as a writer by your late 30s, you’re a nobody. Her success later in life, in spite of depression, personal struggles with a dark past and substance abuse, inspired and rejuvenated me in all those dark moments that come to all writers, when I felt down and hopeless.

And then came the day when I knew, more than anything, that I had to travel to Brazil.

I craved to see for myself the influences that had created the greatest phase of her career, and the years that she admitted were the happiest of her life. Brazil was where Bishop’s path took a new turn, where she produced work whose lasting power would outlive her.

I was 40 years old too. I often felt hopeless and burnt out.  I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I wished to touch the same spark – that intangible, luminous magic – of inspiration that had struck Bishop. Some places have that effect, you know; just like some plants only bloom in certain soil, the fertility of creation comes easier in certain spots than others.

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A view of Guanabara Bay and Flamengo Park – Lota’s vision. Taken from the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.

The 2016 Rio Olympics made it easier to travel to Brazil. The visa requirement was waved for the summer, security was at its best, and by booking far ahead I was able to line up affordable accommodations both in Rio and in Ouro Preto. Ignoring the dreadful headlines about killer Zika mosquitos and roving favela gangs, I spent most of August and the first week of September in Brazil, working on various projects which included researching the life of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares. Needless to say, I skipped the mosquito repellant and was not bitten once.

During my Brazil sojourn I wanted to stay a few days on Copacabana beach, just to take in the atmosphere, but didn’t realize that the hotel I’d booked was literally next door to Elizabeth and Lota’s old Leme apartment. Its street address and entrance might have been on Rua Antonio Vieira 5, but the balcony actually fronts onto Avenida Atlantica.

It was an amazing coincidence. Every day I’d look outside my window onto Leme beach, I realized it was essentially the same view they’d had back then. Every evening I went downstairs to have dinner and cashew fruit caipirinhas on the patio at Jaquina’s, which is actually on the main level of the same building. Lota’s apartment was the penthouse – which you can see on the highest floor. It’s the unit with the wraparound balcony and a walk-up to the rooftop (click photos to expand).

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The view from a similar balcony at Av. Atlantica and Rua Antonio Vieira, 5.

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Copacabana beach – on the left is Leme hill, and on the right is Sugarloaf Mountain.

A few days after I arrived, I hired a driver and guide to take me up to Petropolis and the hilltops of Samambaia. Once the depressing urban jungle of Rio’s favelas gave way to mountainous vegetation, the road turned steep and narrow. I could only imagine how precarious it must have been back when Lota had to maneuver her Jaguar regularly on a winding, partially-unpaved road; now a two-hour drive, it took nearly twice as long back in the 1950s.

Here are some photos taken on that day. The actual Samambaia house is private property so we were not able to go inside, but the hilltop views reflect the fierce beauty of its surroundings. I also took photos of downtown Petropolis, Quitandinha Hotel (a Grand Hotel-type place where the millionaires, celebrities, movie stars and the elites of Petropolis congregated in the 1950s) and the Crystal Palace (click to expand photos).

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During the last week of August, I flew to Belo Horizonte, the capital of the Minas Gerais region, and hired a car for the two-hour drive to Ouro Preto, which was even more spectacular, quaint and tranquil than I’d imagined. Once known as the biggest city in the New World, Ouro Preto is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site and the soul of Brazil’s 1700s gold rush. Its surrounding hills are stippled with gold mines and reddish clay earth.

It’s hard not to fall in love with its timeless, rustic beauty, which (oddly enough) reminded me quite viscerally of my grandmother’s Transylvanian village, where I spent many childhood summers. Safe and friendly, it’s easy to imagine living here for an extended stretch of time and just write. If I could afford it, I would return in a heartbeat.

Ouro Preto is a quintessential village with sloping cobblestone streets and several white stone bridges connecting different parts of town – a tapestry of eighteenth-century dwellings and ornate churches standing next to simple, whitewashed colonial houses. A sprawling main square dotted with baroque buildings next to an arts-and-crafts market.

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The sunshine spills over an explosion of tropical plants sprouting prickly red flowers, then flows downwards to an abundance of purple-and-yellow wildflowers that grow in the sidewalk nooks. A smell of smoke and burning wood lingers after sunset, a dog barks in the middle of the night, the cackling rooster screeches at the crack of dawn.

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A narrow, cobbled road connects Ouro Preto to its sister city Mariana, located a fifteen-minute drive away. High up in the hills overlooking the town, Elizabeth Bishop’s former home boasts an incredible vista that overlooks lush foliage, baroque churches and coppery-red shingled rooftops. In 1960 Bishop purchased a home here, at 546 Mariana Road; she called the house Casa Mariana (click on photos to expand).

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It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Brazil, and I can only imagine how traumatic it must have been for Bishop to leave her adopted home, everything she had loved and lost here. But what made me sadder was how few people remembered Lota de Macedo Soares. Although her spirit is embedded in the beautiful Flamengo Park which circles Guanabara Bay, nobody I talked with in Brazil knew who I was speaking about.

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My guide, a gay man who prides himself on having a history degree, announced that the park had been designed solely by Burle Marx. Even when I tried to impress upon him the significant work Lota did in the design and construction of the park, he (like others) wasn’t particularly interested in knowing about her. Even the small commemorative plaque in Aterro do Flamengo has misspelled Lota’s name and was never corrected. Sadly, in death Lota’s memory has been brushed aside and replaced with the names of powerful men who were determined (and arguably succeeded) in erasing her identity from the history of the city she loved and helped to transform.

Someday all our memories will be forgotten and lost – such is the fate of time and mortality. But I do hope that in the beauty of a blossoming garden, in the delicate verse of a poem that takes someone’s breath away, a shred of ourselves still remains.

Surely this is what Elizabeth and Lota would have wanted.

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Traveling through Transylvania in Search of the Real Dracula

Posted by E on October 18, 2016

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Transylvania, courtesy of Go Visit Transylvania tourist board

I woke up yesterday to see #Transylvania trending on Facebook. After a momentary surge of excitement (how often is Romania ever in the news?), I figured it probably had something to do with Halloween. Sure enough, I clicked on the hashtag to discover that Bran Castle was now accepting overnight guests. More specifically, Airbnb – my favourite way to travel, btw – just hit the marketing jackpot by being featured in dozens of newspaper articles for offering a contest where “two brave souls” will get the chance to have a sleepover in Dracula’s old digs.

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Bran Castle, courtesy of its official website

Maybe it’s because I was born in Romania and half my family hails from the Transylvania region. Maybe it’s because I’m a history buff. But around this time of the year I always get a little ticked off at the hoopla made over a fictional character who bears no resemblance to Vlad Tepes, the fifteenth-century Prince of Wallachia, a man whose actions shaped the history of my homeland and the entire European continent.

For more than two decades, Bran Castle has been a cash cow for its millionaire owner and the Romanian government, neither of whom bear any shame for whoring their history and national pride. Thousands of tourists visit every year, led to believe that they are visiting the Prince of Wallachia’s medieval castle, without realizing that Bran has never been Vlad Tepes’ principal residence. The reality is, Bran is pretty enough but inauthentic – a virtual Dracula Disneyland that has little to offer in terms of historical fact.

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Bram Stoker, cc public domain

When Dracula-the-novel was first published in 1897, few readers bothered to check the accuracy of its depictions. The fact that English writer Bram Stoker never stepped foot in Transylvania did not abate the thrills of readers for over a century, spinning off countless horror films, cheesy sparkly-vampire pulp romances and pretty much the entire Goth subculture as we know it.

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House where Vlad Tepes was born

It helps that Romania is a remote land where few foreigners have stepped foot in. After centuries of serfdom and communist oppression under the totalitarian regime of dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, it is a place still shrouded in a fog of mystery – a place where horse-drawn carts still ride on the highway alongside cars, where wolves still howl through the forests at night and smoke curls from the chimneys of village houses untouched by modern electricity.

Not that I want to burst anybody’s bubble, but vampires are not real. The original ghouls of Romanian folklore, the strigoi, were awful dead zombie-like creatures that didn’t have the romantic appeal of an Edward Cullen. Like the Russian witch of the woods, Baba Yaga, these were stories you told naughty children to keep them from wandering through the woods after sundown.

But let’s say you really want to know who Vlad the Impaler was and why he was so bloody. You want to figure out why he became so feared by his Ottoman enemies and beloved by his people. If you were determined to walk through his footsteps and discover the real man behind the legend, you would begin in Sighisoara, the UNESCO protected village where Vlad was born. Here are some photos I took last year when I was in Romania researching my memoir Remember Your Name.

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Next, you would take a drive up the narrow winding road that leads to the Biertan fortified church, a perfectly preserved medieval church that overflows with history (and likely ghosts). You would observe the ancient villages that dot this beautiful and pristine countryside where peasants still live off the land, gypsies still tell fortunes, and where sheep and goats freely roam the green valleys of the Carpathians.

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And then you will invariably find yourself in Sibiu, the capital of the Transylvania province. Sibiu is a beautifully-preserved medieval town built by the Saxons in the 14th century, and brings together German, Transylvanian and Wallachian influences that have coexisted here for nearly a thousand years.

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But to know Vlad Dracul, there is one last place you must still visit – his real castle and main fortress, the Poienari Citadel. By observing this imposing mountainous fortress, you’ll catch a glimpse back into history, to a land forever under attack by nomadic tribes and religious zealots. A land whose people still suffer the scars of brutality, whose hearts have been so hardened by suffering under decades of oppressive communism that they allow intolerance and xenophobia against religious and sexual minorities to thrive rampantly.

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Not much has changed in six hundred years. The war between the East and West still rages, a war of ideology and barbarism, but sabers and maces have turned into chemical bombs and nighttime air raids.

The same hatreds continue to thrive.

If you ask a villager about Vlad Tepes, you’re bound to hear that if it weren’t for him the reach of the powerful Ottoman Empire would not have ended at the Black Sea. Although he has largely been reduced to a cartoon character by the feverish imagination of a nineteenth-century Englishman, the bloody, merciless actions taken by the Prince of Wallachia in the fifteenth century directly impact the shape and history of Europe as we know it.

So when you dress up like a vampire for your Halloween party or open your door to a trick-or-treating mini-Dracula, remember that sometimes fact can be more interesting than fiction.

Happy Halloween! 😀

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