Monday, March 23, 2015

Remember Your Name: A New Writing Project By Elisa Hategan

Elisa Hategan has been a friend of ARC for a number of years now. She is an incredibly brave woman and an engaging writer. We promoted  Race Traitor: The True Story of Canadian Intelligence Service's Greatest Cover-Up when that book was published and we consider it to be a must read for anyone interested in the history of the Heritage Front, but more importantly as a cautionary tale concerning the dangers of the unchecked powers of government agencies (given the growing concerns about Bill C-51, this is an even more pressing issue).

Ms. Hategan is now working on her next book, a memoir, and she is crowd sourcing funding for the project.

We all have our own story, but that story doesn't belong to us: it’s the story of the hometown we came from, the people who gave birth to us and the people who came before them; the kids we went to school with, the neighbors across the road. It’s the story of every individual who came into our path, who added their own presence, experience, emotions, light and darkness to the universe that became our own.

I was born in the mid-1970s in communist Romania to deaf parents. When I turned 9, my mother suddenly defected while on a trip to Italy and asked for political asylum. For the next 2 years, my abusive father left me to fend for myself on the streets of Bucharest. He was an angry anti-Semite who didn't want to look after a child, and I don’t think I would have made it if it wasn't for my best friend and her grandparents. They lived in the building across the street from mine, and my best friend’s grandmother Gina took care of me whenever she could.

I was 11 years old when my mother arrived in Canada and sent for us. Less than two years before the bloody revolution of 1989 overthrew Ceausescu, I was forced to say goodbye to my friend Aneta and her dear grandparents and join my parents in a foreign country. When I arrived in Canada, my parents forbid me from writing to my friend and her family, and we lost touch.

As a teenager I was alone and unloved, unable to communicate with the other kids at my school. In Romania I had been indoctrinated as a Pioneer and taught to fire a rifle in grade 4. I didn't know how to be "normal" in Canada.

When I was 13, my father died and my mother was abusive and unable to take care of me. I was placed in group and foster homes from which I ran away. I was angry, had no friends, and had inherited my father’s rage at the world – and that’s when I was recruited by a far-right group made up of white supremacists and neo-Nazis. After witnessing their gradual escalation to violence – against women, against gays and lesbians, against Aboriginals and Jews – I realized that I had no choice but to turn against them.

At age eighteen, I testified against the group’s leaders and sent several of them to jail. I also helped expose the fact that the Heritage Front had been co-founded by Canada’s own spy agency, CSIS. Afterwards, I lived in hiding for several years.

In 2001 I discovered, while trying to dig into my father’s unknown past, that he was Jewish. My grandmother had hidden her past and the identity of her illegitimate child’s father from everyone. I knew that I had to find out more and understand how and why two people who hated Jews could have concealed their own Jewish past. Was it shame? Was it the war, the rampant anti-Semitism that exists to this day in eastern Europe? But then why not reclaim the truth after World War Two ended?

I wanted to discover WHY they hated, and why that hate had passed into me and contributed to me becoming a neo-Nazi in my teens. So I embarked on a soul-searching journey that eventually culminated in me converting to Judaism two years ago.

Going back to my roots also meant that I had to begin searching for Aneta, my best friend from across the street. After the 1989 Revolution her family had moved away and nobody knew what had happened to them. It was only after contacting neighbors and relatives that I discovered Aneta’s grandparents had died and she had been trafficked into Istanbul, Turkey to work as a prostitute.

For many years, I believed she was dead. Then, last year, I reconnected with her via Facebook. In August 2014 I traveled back to Romania to meet the girl who had been like a sister to me. We hadn't seen each other for 25 years, but I knew that I needed to write this story for both of us – her story and my own – in order to discover what really happened to us, and why.

What I uncovered was shocking, saddening and deeply painful – and forms a large basis of what this book will depict as a dual side plot – the hidden realities of sex trafficking and survival in post-communist eastern Europe.

While in Bucharest, I also visited the former Securitate (communist Secret Police) archives and tried to access my father’s Securitate files only to discover they were still classified. Unfortunately, to this day Romania remains a country where backroom deals are often made in order to gain access to forbidden dossiers.

This is where YOU come in: I desperately need your help in order to go back to Romania this spring/ summer and continue my research.

Elisa goes on to explain the reasons for the funding request:

Through Airbnb I found an apartment in the exact Bucharest building where I grew up as a child – this summer I intend to go there and finish my manuscript, which is only half complete. The apartment will cost approx. 1000 euros per month and I will need to stay for at least 2-3 months. I also need to pay for my flight there (airfare from Canada to Bucharest is $965), as well as to travel by train to my father’s village in Transylvania to access archival materials and interview villagers about the Jewish community that had thrived there before being deported and murdered in World War Two. I need to understand why my father and his family hid their identity, and why they didn't reclaim it after the war was over.

I’m asking for $8,000 because – after Indiegogo and Paypal fees, I’ll be left with something in the vicinity of $7000, which is a very tight budget for a project that needs international research travel and will take me until the end of the year to write, edit, polish and rewrite (before submitting to editors for publication). In return, I've listed several Perks which you'll receive in addition to my gratitude and appreciation for anything you can spare.

I plan to make this journey even if my funding goal is not met. I feel strongly that this book has a life of its own and demands to be written. One way or the other, it’s going to happen – but the more help I can get along the way, the less stressful this process will be for me.

ARC has made a financial contribution to the project and we hope our readers will consider doing the same. Even a small payment would be welcomed. To reach the appropriate page, please click on the following link:

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