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Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Traveling through Transylvania in Search of the Real Dracula

Posted by E on October 18, 2016

transylvania-by-solowanderers

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.

bran-castle

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.

bram-stoker-dracula-fluoritlaufer-public-domain

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.

House where Vlad Tepes was born

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.

img_4809 img_4925  elisa-sighisoara-yellow-street vlad-tepes-statue

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.

elisa-biertan-tower2 biertan-church

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.

Sibiu

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.

poienari-citadel

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! 😀

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

sighisoara

.

Posted in history, romania | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

An open letter to my stalker

Posted by E on August 4, 2015

Elizabeth Moore shown in Choose Your Voice, 2005

Elizabeth Moore shown in Choose Your Voice, 2005

Hello Elizabeth,

for the record, I am deeply disturbed by the fact that you are stalking me on social media networks, and that you have communicated defamatory messages about me to other people in the last few months.

This cannot continue any more. It’s affected my health, stress levels, and has left me disturbed and fearing for my safety.

I recognize that you were upset by my February 2015 post White Lies: How the CBC Ripped Off My Story.

However, your behaviour since then has prompted me to write this post.

Over the last six months, I have noticed a pattern of stalking on social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, among others, along with my WordPress blog site and my personal/business websites, where you have stalked me and subsequently disseminated defamatory messages about me to other individuals.

I am hereby informing you that as of today, if you repeat any such stalking behaviour – to me or anyone else you disseminate defamatory statements about me – that I will have no choice but to contact police and take legal action against you.

I am frightened and disturbed by your stalking – and what amounts to bullying behaviour – and I will have to seek a restraining order against you if I receive any evidence that you are still persisting in continuing to stalk me on social media networks – or any members of my family.

So, Elizabeth — STOP STALKING ME! I know you’re reading this and I’m writing this notice as an official message that I intend to go to the police – and I WILL go to the police – unless your stalking behaviour stops.

Please do NOT make me contact the police, because this will leave a permanent record of your name in the police database,

Elisa

Posted in elizabeth moore, heritage front, history, stalking | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rumania, Rumania…lost like the song

Posted by E on May 21, 2015

field haystacks

I’m writing this post while listening to the old Yiddish song, Rumania Rumania. It’s full of nostalgia for a homeland that has been lost and now forgotten, for its sweet wines, hearty cooks and pretty girls – I’m including a YouTube link to the song at the bottom of this post.

My birthplace. My original homeland. The apex of so much pain, grief and longing. A place that has suffered a thousand years of wars, invasions, pogroms, oppression and terror, and is still in transition. Where it will end up in another century, I have no idea. It is a place I love and hate all at the same time, for so many reasons that are all intertwined so tightly in my heart that I could never fully separate the individual strings and emotions which, like arterial veins, crisscross my connection to this place.

Elisa AteneuElisa haystack Romania2015

Romania is a painfully beautiful, lost country. From the moment you set foot within its borders, everybody from taxi drivers to people sitting on a park bench will tell you about the endemic government corruption, how the rich have ransacked the country and left the poor to despair. But what they don’t tell you, as they cling to the Orthodox religion with hateful fervour, is how religion and xenophobia has poisoned their own hearts.

Bucharest’s Gay Pride parade is on Saturday and already the hate and frenzy has begun online – on several blogs I’ve read people suggesting plans to attack the demonstrators in the name of Jesus and morality. Ever since the Revolution of 1989, the Orthodox Church has been growing in influence and, not coincidentally, so has hostility toward any change in humanitarian rights. Homosexuality has been legalized only since 1996 and to this day (despite having been part of the EU since 2007) Romanian courts still have not granted any form of recognition toward same-sex couples. Forget marriage – they don’t even acknowledge the union between a same-sex couple. Gays can’t adopt. Gays can’t donate blood. For all intents and purposes, gays cannot exist as gay without violent opposition.

I found it telling that, in contrast to North American Pride parades that celebrate fun, diversity and having a great time, the local brochure printed by Accept Romania to describe the march is focused on preventing attacks: after the march, make sure to walk away in pairs. Don’t wear things that can identify you for attack. Meet and leave via the metro, rather than on foot. In Romania, taking part in the Pride Parade is an act of defiance, of insurgency, of rebellion. It is the very definition of courage.

LGBT people here are literally prepared to fight for their rights, to risk being filmed on television and fired the next day, to risk being struck with stones and boots – something that we in the West take for granted. The Stonewall riots of 1969 are hardly on our minds as we walk down the street holding hands with our lovers, shoot our water guns and wear rainbow-coloured necklaces during our Gay Pride weekend street parties. It reminds me of the early days of suffragettes – where women who fought for the right to vote were assaulted on the streets and demonized in the press.

Stonewall-Riots-June-28-1969 

anti-gay protesters romania anti-gay-manifestations-romania

The Romanian public’s rampant hostility and religious fervour, along with the idea that “We’re not the sinful West, we don’t have many of THOSE kinds over here” (actual words I’ve read on a blog today) is partially fed by ignorance. They don’t realize that gay people are everywhere, including in their own families, because most gays and lesbians rightfully fear coming out to their families and coworkers. How can they, when they live in a country where gays are often called “sodomites” by people who also refer to Jews as “jidani” and openly express contempt toward those of a different ethnicity (i.e. the Roma people). People here have been beaten, assaulted, sentenced to prison and murdered for their right to love.

On a personal level, it disturbs me how many of my own relatives are so brainwashed by dogma that there is nothing left between us. It’s disturbing how a cousin told me a long time ago that she’d prefer if one of her sons died than become a “poponar” (a derogatory term for gay males). Why should it matter to someone, who I love and choose to live with? Who I sleep with is none of her business – just as I don’t care whether she still has sex with the ugly, irascible, xenophobic husband of whom she often complained. Why is her opinion, anybody’s opinion in fact, more important and valid than mine – who appointed her judge and executioner? How can love for your own child be overwritten by such deep-seated hatred for homosexuality that you’d rather he or she died than be free to love whoever they want?

It’s disturbing how easily the previously oppressed have become oppressors. It’s a process I am still working on capturing in my new book, a process that was recently featured on Romanian news.

So for the record, for the sake of any relatives or former classmates who stumble onto this page: I am and have ALWAYS been gay. I love my partner deeply and I am also proud of my East European background. I am not sick, nor am I confused. The abuse (from both genders) that I experienced as a child has nothing to do with my sexual orientation as an adult. And I promise you that I’m not the only lesbian you’ve ever met. In fact, there are people in your own family, at work, sitting on the bus next to you, people just like you, who are attracted to the same sex.

In the end, I will ALWAYS side with love over hate. I will ALWAYS choose love and human rights over allegiance to blood and nation. And if you’d rather choose Jesus over accepting me, my life, my Jewish religion and my chosen spouse, then I am sorry for you but don’t need your judgement in my life. I don’t want to lose hope, but feel that it will take several generations to wipe out the hate I’ve witnessed over here.

Posted in hate, history, homosexuality, ignorance, love, news, personal, religion, romania | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Heal your Wound, Transform the World

Posted by E on May 6, 2015

By now it seems that everybody in the world has seen yesterday’s Toronto Star article, which featured me and my journey toward understanding hate and its visceral, personal roots. I’m very grateful that Rachel Mendleson, a journalist at Canada’s largest-circulated newspaper, saw value in what I am trying to accomplish and worked so hard to share it with others.

Metro Toronto Screenshot 2015-05-06 2

The sad and painful truth is this: I have had hundreds of hits on my blog and website yesterday, but not many donations to the book campaign mentioned in the Toronto Star article. Which is the whole crux of the matter – for the last two months I’ve begged, borrowed and bothered people in order to fundraise for a project that I truly believe will make a difference in this world. But, with the exception of a few close, dear friends and a handful of people who believe in me, it’s all gone on deaf ears.

I cannot do this without your help. I’m not just talking money here – although without it, the research involved in this book simply cannot take place. But even dropping a word of encouragement. Sharing the story with others. Telling people on Facebook. Or just believing in me.

Anything at all.

But until now, everybody – yes, even YOU reading this – is probably thinking, Hey, this sounds like a cool project, so SOMEBODY’S going to help out. But the reality is, nobody will. We live in an age of indifference and self-absorption, where a guy on Kickstarter gets $50,000 to buy ingredients for a potato salad, and worthwhile projects and causes are bumped from the limelight in favour of potato-salad-guy or kong-fu-baby. It’s the reality of our time, where the trivial and the insipid have come to dominate social culture as we define it today.

So that somebody you’re thinking might be able to help me, after you leave this blog – well, that’s YOU.

There’s nobody else. If I had a dollar, even five dollars, for everybody who has checked out my blog over the last month but didn’t contribute anything, my book would have been funded by now.

There is just me. And you. And this moment – where you can decide to help me or you can walk away. This is, after all, your choice. But please don’t diminish that choice by assuming that there’s somebody else in line to help me out.

Because there isn’t.

If you DO decide to walk away, I don’t resent you. In fact, I’m kind of wishing I could walk away from it also. But the thing is, I can’t. My entire childhood and my adolescence was filled with hate, abuse and continuous trauma, and I realize today, in my 40th year, that running away from ugliness changes nothing. It’s cosmetic surgery of the heart, but doesn’t repair the wound inside your soul.

My wound goes deeper than my own childhood – it goes into the lives of my parents, and grand-parents, and great-grandparents before them. An epigenetic history of hate, oppression and suppression of the self. I carry in my blood the genetic memory of six hundred years of hatred, pogroms, wars, abuses and oppression. It’s a huge family tree of despair and longing to be remembered. Hence the name of my book.

remember meme

In Remember Your Name, I’m digging back into the personal transformations of innocents into monsters, as well as digging back further into the history of hidden Jews and forced converts (Sephardic conversos) in Europe, and the internalization of hatred and the transformation of victim into oppressor.

We see the consequences of this legacy of hate 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. Whether it means torching a police car or turning around and inflicting violence upon someone else, we as human beings are collective beings – which means that, even at our worst, we cannot constrain our emotions. They will spill out, for good and for bad, and impact the universe around us.

Right before I converted to Judaism in 2013, I had to write an essay for the rabbis at my Beit Din (Rabbinical Council) to explain why I wanted to become a Jew. This is a segment of that essay:

“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 feel terribly sad that 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 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. But I aim to reclaim that heritage.”

By reclaiming this heritage, I reclaim the pain and the beauty of everyone whose blood gave birth to me today. Maybe I’m being idealistic or naïve, but I keep feeling that if I could SOMEHOW depict how pain and oppression, innocence and brutality, are so closely intertwined, then I might be able to show that there is no such thing as black or white in this world.

There is no ME or YOU. There is no Jew, Arab or Christian. We all laugh, we all cry. We all bleed.

We are ONE. Your pain is my pain, and my memories are your memories now.

Within each and every one of us there is the potential to be a victim and a victimizer, a tormentor and a tormented soul. There is love, and there is hate. And it is the uniqueness and beauty of our human experience which allows you to make that choice – the choice to get involved, to show kindness and compassion, or the choice to walk away.

Ultimately, it’s your choice.

Posted in ancestry, canada, commentary, hate, heritage front, history, jewish, journalism, love, media, news, racism, religion, revolution, romania, toronto, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Race Traitor – the media library

Posted by E on November 3, 2014

Hategan article

Hey guys,

after twenty years of telling people what happened in our own country, I’m tired of the BS I occasionally encounter from people who are so shocked by my story that they would rather deny it happened instead of doing due diligence and actually researching what is freely in the public domain. See how the denial haunts me to this day and parallels my experience as a victim of sexual assault: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/i-know-what-its-like-not-to-be-believed/

Yeah, I know that the info is out there, but in this day of anonymous derogatory quips and an attention span that makes a fruit fly’s seem genius, I doubt the naysayers will actually take the time to investigate the facts and realize that everything I wrote in my book Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence’s Greatest Cover-up is rooted in hard, undeniable fact.

The denial ends today.

You will also find this list in the References section of my book. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list of resources, but it should suffice to convince even the most ardent nay-sayer that all this actually took place in a free and democratic country.

I have quite a few affidavits made public in 1993 that I can provide upon request to anyone who is interested in further documentation of what is without a doubt one of the most ruthless and insidious, yet well-documented cases of an intelligence agent gone rogue.

Not included in this list is a transcript of my testimony against three notorious leaders of the Heritage Front, a testimony which resulted in convictions and prison sentences. Also not included (though mentioned in the articles below) is a transcript of my testimony in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in 1994, where I spoke to a Senate Subcommittee on National Defence about the illegal actions of CSIS agent and group co-founder Grant Bristow – actions that I witnessed first-hand while being a teenager inside the domestic terrorist group that was the Heritage Front.

If interested in further research, there are also quite a number of articles in the press regarding the shocking treatment received by Brian MacInnis, a Parliamentary aide who leaked a secret CSIS report to the prime minister detailing the controversial actions of a spy gone rogue. For his effort to expose the cover-up, (this was in the days before the Julian Assanges and Edward Snowdens of the world made leaking documents cool) MacInnis was charged under Canada’s insidious Official Secrets Act and his career was permanently ruined.

Furthermore, there is extensive coverage of the more-RECENT (as in 2010!) illegal actions of Bristow’s new persona, “Nathan Black” in targeting the Jewish former mayor of Edmonton Stephen Mendel for harassment using his old spy tricks. I’ve compiled some of those articles in this post: https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/old-habits-die-hard-the-dubious-adventures-of-grant-bristow-or-how-csis-taught-me-everything-i-know-about-phone-hacking/

 

VIDEOS

CBC, The Fifth Estate, October 4, 1994.

Excerpt from the Toronto Star, October 5, 1994, describing the content:

The government-appointed CSIS watchdog, called the Security Intelligence Review Committee, wrote a top-secret 1992 report to Mr. Gray’s Conservative predecessor, Douglas Lewis, warning that Mr. Bristow was involved in ‘unlawful activities’ that could ‘generate controversy.’”

“CSIS is scared Grant will blow his lid,” one police source tells The Fifth Estate.

“What they’re scared of is Grant’s going to say: ‘Yeah, we desecrated Jewish synagogues. We threatened people’s lives. We were throwing rocks through windows and we were manufacturing (violent) incidents and we were doing all of this on the instructions of CSIS’.”

The program says CSIS not only did nothing to prevent these incidents but allowed Bristow’s handler, whom it identified as Al Treddenick, to get Bristow out of trouble with police on several occasions.

It says Treddenick is a former officer of the discredited RCMP security service, disbanded in the early 1980s after it was found to have committed illegal acts against Quebec separatists and other domestic dissidents in the 1970s and 1980s. CSIS was created to replace the RCMP security service.”

FIFTH ESTATE QUOTE: “When Elisse came out and said she was going to tell the truth, CSIS was saying they were going to get out and discredit her because at least Hategan was pointing the finger at Grant Bristow… we’ll tear her to shreds”.

White Pine Pictures, “Hearts Of Hate: The Battle For Young Minds”. Peter Raymont, 1995.

It’s About Time, VISION TV. “Racism, Sexism and Belonging.” Sadia Zaman, 1994.

 

ARTICLES

Dunphy, Bill. ” STIR IT UP. Spy Unmasked: CSIS Informant ‘Founding Father’ of white racist group,” Toronto Sun, 14 Aug. 1994.

Dunphy, Bill. “Turncoat spied on racist group,” Toronto Sun, 16 March 1994.

Dunphy, Bill. “Ex-racist’s despair,” Toronto Sun, 17 March 1994.

Dunphy, Bill. “We’ll Squash ‘Em! Manning fears plot behind racist infiltration of the Reform Party”, Toronto Sun, Feb. 29, 1992

Dunphy, Bill. “Reformers boot out ‘infiltrators'”, Toronto Sun, March 11, 1992

Dunphy, Bill. “Top racist in welfare scam,” Toronto Sun, Nov. 29, 1992.

Dunphy, Bill. “White rights groups readying for racial war.” Toronto Sun, 1992-11-29. Includes description of HF leader Grant ‘Briston’

Dunphy, Bill. “Canada’s Neo-Nazis”, Toronto Sunday Sun, November 29, 1992 Includes description of HF leader Grant ‘Briston’

Swanson, Gail. “Fire guts rights activist’s house”. Toronto Star, 92-11-09. involving arson of Jewish community leader’s home

Deverell, John. “Metro constable facing charges”. Toronto Star, December 17, 1993. involving metro Toronto cop member of HF

Mascoll, Philip. “Public mischief charge dropped”, Toronto Star, March 8, 1994 – involving an HF sexual assault on a black woman

Platiel, Rudy. “Front played dirty, court told.” Globe and Mail, 17 March 1994.

Platiel, Rudy. “Front tried to thwart agency, court told,” Globe and Mail, 16 March 1994.

Oakes, Gary “Woman’s hate-crime charges withdrawn,” Toronto Star, 24 Jun 1994.

Salot, Jeff, Henry Hess. “Memo leaker questions CSIS conduct,” Globe and Mail, 27 Aug. 1994.

Swainson, Gail. “Elite soldiers members of racist group, leader says,” Toronto Star, 6 May 1993.

Speirs, Rosemary, David Vienneau, “Commons panel to probe CSIS,” Toronto Star, 25 Aug. 1994.

Speirs, Rosemary. “CSIS told to ‘clear its name’ publicly,” Toronto Star, 24 Aug. 1994.

Speirs, Rosemary, David Vienneau. “Who’s watching whom?,” Toronto Star, 27 Aug. 1994.

Vienneau, David. “Spy agency kept watch on CBC,” Toronto Star, 19 Aug. 1994.

Vienneau, David, Rosemary Speirs, and Shawn McCarthy. Ex-aide admits leaking spy note,” Toronto Star, 26 Aug. 1994.

Cal Millar and Dale Brazao, Parliament set to probe secret actions of CSIS spy Committee to see if Grant Bristow was a spy or racist. Toronto Star, September 12, 1994.

Derek Ferguson, “Report ‘whitewash’ of spy agency mole. Toronto Star, June 14, 1995

Toronto Sun, October 1995 MPs rip Bristow spying scandal: CSIS broke the law, leaked report says”

Clayton Ruby, Fighting racism going out of fashion. Toronto Star, December 13, 1995

Toronto Star, September 10, 1994. “Exclusive: CSIS spy snapped in Libya: Portrait of the vanishing spy: Grant Bristow was a man with great contacts and plenty of money to spend.”

Dale Brazao, “Star finds Grant Bristow”, Toronto Star, Apr 20, 1995.

ONLINE ARTICLE that also discusses what I covered in my book regarding Stephen Harper’s roots in the Northern Foundation, a radical far-right group whose members included skinheads, neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, Airborne Regiment soldiers, radical anti-abortionists and Reform Party members: Agora Cosmopolitan

BLOGS

Anti-Racist Canada Collective, A History of Violence, 1989-2011.

http://anti-racistcanada.blogspot.ca/2011/10/history-of-violence-1989-2011.html

Elisa Hategan, Incognito Press. Old Habits Die Hard

https://incognitopress.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/old-habits-die-hard-the-dubious-adventures-of-grant-bristow-or-how-csis-taught-me-everything-i-know-about-phone-hacking/

Grant Bristow’s hit list of people to be targeted for stalking and harassment:

hit list grant bristow

Posted in activism, canada, cbc, csis, history, media, news, ontario, politics, press, racism, truth, writer, writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

A year of new beginnings

Posted by E on January 1, 2013

new year

May this year bring all of us the fulfillment of all our dreams and ambitions. I will be mostly absent from this blog over the next little while. I am embarking on both a new manuscript and a new exploration of my family’s past — and these two paths will hopefully interact in some significant, as-of-yet unknown way.

My results from my DNA test at 23andme have returned with a bang — something I have always known within myself, yet never had any confirmation of before now — that I am indeed of a Ashkenazi Jewish background. I have over a hundred cousins with the Cohen surname from the 2nd-3rd cousin level and up. Several other spellings of Cohen, Kohen, Kuhn and Kahan also pop up, as well as similar variations. (Also related to a significant portion of Kaplans, Friedmans and Rosenbergs). Although I’ve always known I was Romanian (born there, after all!) and Hungarian on my father’s side, now I have just discovered that I am of Polish and Russian Jewish backgrounds (with some German thrown in)….as much as 40%.  From the levels of my matches, the Jewish connection comes from BOTH of my parents, which is a shock given how anti-semitic and racist my mother has been throughout her life. But sometimes the strongest persecutors are those who have something to hide. There is also notable Southern European percentage that traces back to the Iberian/Spanish peninsula, and leads me to believe there’s an influx of Shephardic blood in my dna as well.

Like I said, it’s a confirmation of what I’ve always felt — and yet to see this in person, like this, decades after my father’s death, just made me weep. I just found out a couple of days ago….transferred my raw data to FamilyTreeDNA last night, so in another couple of weeks hopefully I will have more family matches. I strongly believe in genetic memory, and after the reaction I experienced in Kracow, Poland 10 years ago, and once again in Budapest and Debrecen, Hungary, it all begins to make sense. The fog is clearing, and it feels surreal to finally catch a glimpse of the truth that lies beyond the window that was obscured to me all of my life.

So the question remains — with nearly all of my 985 relatives on 23andme bearing Jewish surnames, and both the sides of my family descending from a Jewish line, does my heritage reside in my DNA, blood and ancestry, in my dreams and my senses, in my deja vus and my physical appearance, or in what a rabbi declares I am (or I am not)?  The answer, at least to me, is pretty obvious. And such is the way of the future, both for Israel and for the notion of what makes one a Jew.

Posted in ancestry, belonging, history, religion | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

An open letter to Rita Atria

Posted by E on July 26, 2012

This is a love letter to the sister I never had.

On July 26, 2012, the twentieth anniversary of your death, I want to say that I will never forget you, Rita. I want to shout your name from the rooftops, and hope that somewhere in the echoes that bounce back, you are still there. I want to say that even though I never met you, I will always consider you a sister of my heart. You are my shadow self – a firefly in the darkest sky, a girl who never grew to be a woman.

We were born 3 months apart in the latter half of the same year, in the same part of the continent. We were both loud, vivacious, black-haired, brown-eyed girls endowed with a penchant for mischief. You were born into a small village of Mafiosos and I was a street urchin seeking out a family among a group of hateful extremists who envisioned that they would one day rule the country.

We were both seventeen years old when we saw our “family” for what it really was and tried to get out. We were both seventeen when we began to compile information on the men who we had once trusted, looked up to, even loved. We were little girls who wanted to pretend that we were soldiers in a war greater than ourselves.

In the greater scheme of things, we were little children. Disobedient children who spied on our families and turned against men who had once held us close to them and called us “daughters.” We sat in open court and pointed to such men, denouncing them for the vile criminals that they were. You testified against the Cosa Nostra, men responsible for murdering your father. I testified against the Heritage Front and helped shut down Canada’s largest white supremacist organization, bankrolled and condoned by Canada’s Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

We both betrayed the only family that had ever embraced us.

I am you, Rita, and you are me. We are no more or less than any other teenage girl who wants to make a difference in her life, who wants a better world for her unborn children. We are every girl who lives in fear today, yet holds within her heart the flicker of hope that she will one day be counted. That someday she might make a difference.

We both know the seclusion of safe-houses, the anonymity of a new haircut and a bottle of scalp-burning dye. The unfamiliar utterance of a new name in our mouths. We know what it is like to have an entire world hate us and call us traitors. We know the words grown men have spoken after us, the threats and hits that were placed on our heads. And the truth, Rita, is that we were both children. We were idealists with hardly any concept in our minds of the ugliness of the world, of the seclusion and loneliness that would come.

When you’re in hiding the sky is always starless, muffled by an oppression of perpetually-low clouds. There’s only the stillness of empty apartments, where the silence of incalculable whitewashed walls closes in on you. After a while, the danger is no longer as relevant as walking to the window to tear apart the curtains, regardless of who might be lurking below. Because all you can say to yourself is, When the gunfire erupts I will not duck, I will not retreat.

I wish I’d met you, Rita. I wish that I could hold your hand and call you Sister. When you climbed over that balcony and flew down to your death, broken-hearted after the Mafia assassinated your only friend, magistrate Paolo Borsellino, convinced that nothing would ever change, a part of me was there with you. A part of me has always longed to take flight too.

Every year that passes since your passing, after the great snowfalls recede and give way to the delicate beauty of new growth in spring, I think of the shadows of us two – two teenage girls who wanted to make this ugly, senseless world a better place.

You live in me, Rita. And I will never forget you.

Posted in activism, beauty, cosa nostra, csis, family, freedom, history, identity, innocence, italy, letter, life, love, mafia, media, news, paolo borsellino, politics, revolution, rita atria, truth, Uncategorized, violence, war, women | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

History that is forgotten is destined to be repeated

Posted by E on November 11, 2011

This time of the year, around Remembrance Day, I get more emotional than usual. I search through my genetic memory and reach for my dead, faceless grandfathers. One was a captain in the Austro-Hungarian army during WW1, the other died in battle during WW2 while my mother was an infant. I never knew either of them. I never saw a photo of either of them.

War is a brutal, awful thing. It destroys photographs, it curls up the edges of memories and leaves only a hollow longing in its place.

My mother’s father was shot through the head in the Romanian battlefields at the end of the Second World War, in 1944.  A bullet smashed through a gap in his helmet and entered through his left ear just as my mother, an infant at the time, fell from a great height and shattered her tympanic membranes, rendering her deaf in the same ear.

My father’s father was a highly-decorated captain who met my grandmother Anna in Transylvania, where his troops were stationed. She eloped with him to Hungary, where she had her baby. But his family, because of Anna’s lack of dowry (my great-grandfather denied her inheritance because she’d ran off with a Hungarian), intercepted the marriage. My poor grandmother, all of eighteen, was put out on the street with a baby in her hands. A baby who ended up deaf, the villagers gossiped, because Anna had kept him a secret throughout the pregancy. But my father would never know his own Papa, because my grandfather would be killed in battle only two years later.

Even though I’ve never known, much less seen a mere photograph of them, both my grandfathers are here with me today. Their courage flows through my bloodstream. The untold horrors they must have faced in open combat claw at my consciousness.

We live in a world where so many people my age take for granted the freedoms we enjoy, the personal liberties that surround us, the fact that we can sit back and write sarcastic quips on the internet mocking this war and that one, but we lack the understanding that sometimes war is necessary for survival. That sometimes picking up a weapon is not an option, but a need. That is courage. What those naive, red-cheeked young people who entered battles for the love of country, for the love of all that was right, and met with hatred, and terror, and death. Who came home — if they were lucky — scarred in psyche and in body, their innocence ripped from them by the savagery of war.

War is in my blood, and whether you deny it or not, it’s in your blood also. You can’t run from it. Its legacy, for better or for worse, is all around us. We are the descendandants of several millenia of bloodshed and revolutions. The fact that we are here signifies that our lineage is built on the triumph of the victorious. We are the ones who survived, and we did so because of our ancestors. Because of the countless wars and savage battles they fought to give us our freedoms today, as frought with uncertainty as they are.

So let us remember our grandfathers and grandmothers and all those brave souls who were forced to grow up way too fast, and whose innocence was robbed well before their time. For if we forget the greatest treasure they gave us — our life and our freedom — then history is destined to be repeated.

Posted in family, freedom, history, news, politics, war | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Who are you, really? Where history and identity converge

Posted by E on September 23, 2011

To those of you who are fortunate enough to know your family history – you’ll never know how fortunate you are. Never, ever take that knowledge for granted.

Last week I stumbled onto an Anderson Cooper show, a program I’d never watched before (I hadn’t even realized that he had his own show). In it there were two young women who had both been abandoned in trash bins or by the side of the road, respectively, as infants. Although unrelated, both grew up under similar circumstances, and both had always wondered where they had come from. Toward the end of the show, they were given the results of DNA tests they had taken prior to the show taping by a company called 23andme. By discovering which Haplogroups they belonged to, at least they would have some answers.

One of the things that moved me most during the show was when Anderson said this: “My father died when I was ten, and for the longest time I thought he would have left me a letter to tell me more about himself.”

My own father had died around that time also – I was thirteen when he left Canada and shortly thereafter died somewhere in Bucharest. Because Romania was still a communist country and we had been forced to relinquish our citizenship as part of our emigration process, there was no way possible to obtain further information as to what happened to his remains.

 But as I got older, I realized that the absence of a grave or details about his death were only a small part of my frustration, as it compared to the questions I still had of him – and of my own self. Like Anderson, I felt that my father’s death had prompted in me a disconnection to my past, to my own history. My father took to his grave the answers to innumerable questions that will never be answered, and I am forced to live with that for the rest of my life.

My father was fifty-five years old when I was born. He had lived an entire lifetime by the time I was born – 3 wives, two careers, countless mistresses – a life in which a child was not expected or wanted. Consequently, my father kept himself apart from me, a remote man whose aloofness was further accentuated by his deafness. Even as I, as all children of deaf parents, grew up with sign language as my primary way of communication, it mattered not; my father didn’t tell me anything.

He kept all his secrets within the pages of a couple of old notebooks in which he wrote every afternoon, and which he purposefully hid from my prying eyes. Those notebooks were in his valises when he died in Bucharest. After he died, his so-called friends rummaged through his suitcases for anything of value, and discarded the rest as garbage in the alleyways behind their house.

Even today, as I walk through alleyways and backstreets, I find myself scanning the gutters and trash cans, irrationally asking myself, What if? What secrets about myself could I find there?

So many more years later some answers would come, but never the truth that I have searched for – the identity of his father, of an entire line of Hungarian relatives that I will never know because my grandmother took revenge at being abandoned with her infant son, and swore never to tell anyone their name. Even my father’s birth certificate, which I obtained from a Debrecen courthouse, yielded nothing – as she had carefully omitted the father’s name as “Unknown” and given him her own last name.

 It took even more digging and scouring through rumours in the old East European villages of his past to realize that his ancestry involved Jewish roots that everyone from my grandmother to my own mother sought to keep from me. It disturbs me that so many of my relatives have chosen to die with secrets on their lips than to consider the emptiness that their offspring might experience. And furthermore, it saddens me that I may have to rely on an internet-bought $99 DNA test to discover things about my history and lineage that my own family should have shared with me.

But nothing that I can gain from spitting into a test tube would even marginally account for the profound loss of my own history – which, because of shame and selfishness and thoughtlessness, will be inaccessible to me forever. No matter how painful or shameful a secret may be, no matter how much anger still festers, one should never deny one’s children the ability to access their own legacy and history.

Posted in family, history, identity, letter, life, longing | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The girl in the picture is me

Posted by E on August 19, 2011

The girl in this picture is me. Or rather, it was me. The me I was between age 16-18. The me I lost when I left Toronto, after testifying against a bunch of neo-Nazi leaders who led an organization co-founded by a CSIS agent. Founded, and funded, by our own Canadian government.

Nobody knows what it is like to live in the underground. It’s been romanticized, glamorized, but unless somebody’s actually lived it, nobody can imagine the toll this life can take on you.

Nameless cities, countless names, and through it all, you just ask yourself, Why do I bother? Why not just let them find me – the ones who kept tracking me down, phoning me in the night with threats like “we’re coming to get you,” and “rats end up in the sewers.”

By writing this entry, I’m coming out. Not as gay (that happened a long time ago!), but as a poser. A faker. An impostor.

This is an open letter to all my friends who will be reading this, whether via this blog or through my Facebook account link. Friends I’ve made in different cities and different countries. Friends near and far who have all called me by different names. I’m here to tell you that no, I wasn’t going through eccentric, creative phases whenever I changed cities and switched names.

 There was a reason for it. At least at the time. But as the years went by, I found myself repeating a pattern that was no longer necessary, yet I didn’t know how to stop – lying. Lying had become part of my identity. Lying about my past, my family, my name. All of it as easy as a knee-jerk reflex. Because when you discard identities like you do clothing, sometimes you don’t know how to relate to others without exposing yourself. Even when the threat has long ended.

So for all those who called me Emma in Nova Scotia or Kat in Ottawa or Elisa in the GTA, or the countless little monikers I’ve worn between one place and the next, this entry should provide the answers to some of the questions you’ve always been too polite to ask.

Why am I “coming out” now? Some of you know about my novel Race Traitor, which is loosely based on my own story. You probably didn’t realize there was a connection. What you’ve been told is that it’s a cool little thriller I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. What you don’t know is that it’s full of demons. Not of the supernatural kind, because those can be vanquished easier than those who come to you in the night, through nightmares and flashbacks and terrors that leave you shaking and wondering what the hell’s the point of going forward.  These demons are real people, and they are out there in the world. Seducing and recruiting young, impressionable people, into movements that rob them of their minds and souls. And you owe it to this world, and to all of those lost youth, to understand what happened to me. And what forced me to write this book.

The irony is, this fall my memoir was going to come out with Penguin. I turned them down, because they wanted me to expose myself and offered me nothing to compensate for the threat to my life and that of my loved ones. So instead of telling my secrets, I turned the memoir into a novel, and wrote new secrets for a new character. I’ll never regret this decision. It led me to create an updated story that will reach far more readers than the decade-old story of a girl who disappeared in 1993.

I paid the price for my privacy. I had to publish it myself. Sure, it came close to being bought several times, but ultimately rejected with comments like “this isn’t pertinent to our society anymore. The heyday of right-wing extremists is over.”

Then the shootings and bombing in Norway happened. It was a wake up call for me. Ultimately I had to fire my agent, take my career back into my own hands, and publish the book myself. Incurring, of course, the silent disapproval of nearly all my writer friends who were horrified that I’d subject myself, and my manuscript, to the ghettos of the “Indie” world. Regardless of the quality of my writing, no respectable newspaper or magazine would review my work now. I’d effectively committed career suicide.

So where does this leave me? Yeah, I guess I could go around peddling my wares on writers’ forums now. Bombarding everybody with tweets and emails begging them to buy my book. But I won’t bother to do that. I won’t plead, beg, or steal you attention with requests that you buy it.

All I wanted to do is to tell you the truth about me, and the truth behind my book. If you don’t like the subject matter or don’t want to waste five bucks on something that took me over a year to write and a lifetime to escape, I don’t give a shit. Really.

 I don’t really give a damn about anything anymore.

Posted in books, canada, commentary, crime, freedom, germany, history, letter, life, literature, news, politics, press, publishing, thoughts, toronto, writer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »