It would be the last interview. On my mother’s 84th birthday, I ambushed her with a television camera at her apartment in Calgary, Alberta, downplaying the invasion of lights, cables, and microphones, as “some friends popping by.”
She looked at me, and, drolly asked, “what friends?”
I guess I felt a little guilty. She was a captive audience. But, as this 2:14 excerpt from the film, the Traitor’s Daughter illustrates, she rose to the occasion.
I had been pursuing my Russian mother with a video camera in one form or another, for a couple decades. She once quipped, “I feel like an insect impaled with a stick pin for closer examination!”
The filming of “The Traitor’s Daughter” really began at this moment (pictured above), 21 years ago when the Soviet Union broke apart. For the first time, it seemed my childhood lifelong dream of reuniting my mother with the Russian sister she hadn’t seen for half a century, might actually come true. With the old regime gone, would she still be considered a traitor, as one of Hitler’s Slaves during World War Two? She was nervous. She never believed Russia would ever really change from the Stalin years of her youth.
In 1991, was it finally safe for her to go home? When I first broached the subject of traveling to the ‘new’ Russia, over our kitchen table in Netherhill, Saskatchewan, she retorted, “Why would you want to take me back to the land of strangers and graveyards?”
Even after fifty years of living on the Canadian prairies, she never fully believed it would be safe for her to return to Russia. Not until she actually did it.
“What were you afraid of?” I asked.