On set at Global TV’s program “16X9″, we are two prairie girls celebrating the stories of a trio of women you don’t normally get to see on prime time TV. Their faces are etched with wrinkles, each line telling a tale of extraordinary cunning, endurance, and humour. These dames are in their nineties.
They’re sharp, expressive, and will hold you spellbound with just a hint of what they survived as young women during World War Two. (I include my mother, who joins them in spirit, with a story just as riveting, in my upcoming film, “The Traitor’s Daughter.” You’ll see why I’ve included her, in a minute. Keep reading!)
Executive Producer Laurie Few (Saskatoon) and I (Netherhill) share a love of great dames and great stories. The kind of story you can’t make up. The kind of story I am so proud to be able to bring to National TV on Canada’s fastest growing network, this Remembrance Day.
On November 9th, at 7:00 PM (check your local listings) you’re going to meet a couple unsung ‘heros’ of the Second World War: the women whose stories are typically overshadowed at Remembrance Day by the medals and pomp and ceremony around the exploits of men who write history.
At the height of the Nazi terror in Holland, Hetty Wear risked her life to hide Jews in their family attic. She is one of the last eye-witnesses to the Holocaust. She remembers the day the Gestapo came for the Jewish children in her own school, including two of her friends. Like so many, she never saw them again, as they disappeared into the concentration camps of World War Two.
In an extraordinary story turn, we reunite her with the last surviving Jew of the seven Jews she and her parents saved during the War by hiding them in the attic during the Nazi occupation of Holland. From her home in Richmond, BC, 95-year Delia Van Dam (now Delia Van Haren) tells a parallel story of terror and the unquenchable will to survive as she and her husband endured 1825 days of Nazi occupation.
To create the mood and musical subtext for the documentary, I worked with Cheryl Duvall, an international concert pianist who volunteered her time and talent to provide this spontaneous sound track. (Thanks to Guy Few,) who put it all together for us!) Click on the black and white photograph below for a 2:30 musical voyage into the heart of Nazi-occupied Holland.
Now I promised you the story of “Six Degrees of Separation”. Against all odds, I mean you can’t make this stuff up, Hetty Wear actually met my mother in Holland when they were both war brides, awaiting passage to Canada. It was only for a couple hours one summer’s afternoon in July, 1946, but Hetty never forgot their conversation in the back of a Canadian army jeep ferrying them to their respective Dutch billets.
“She told me, the Germans beat her. I wondered, why would anyone beat such a pretty, petite woman!” And then she went on. “Well, how many Russian war brides could there be? I don’t think very many..” her voice trails off. There was only one Russian war bride to come to Canada, and that was my mom. Agnes Spicer (Pfeil, at that time).
As you read this, my mother (pictured on the left) and Hetty (pictured on the right) are part of an amazing international travelling art exhibit created by Calgary’s own Bev Tosh. “One Way Passage to Love” is currently on display at the site of the biggest airdrop operation during the Second World War. In Nijmegan, Holland, my twin brother Victor and I decided to pay Mom and Hetty ‘a visit.’ at the Dutch International Liberation Museum. (Click the photograph below to see a fabulous 2:00 ‘tour’ with music of this moving exhibit celebrating 22 War Brides, including Mom and Hetty.