The stories I never knew
What’s your family story?
My maternal grandfather died when I was 11. I don’t have a lot of memories around spending time with him. I used to go to my grandparent’s apartment – and then condo – every Friday after school to celebrate the Sabbath. I would get to their place just in time to watch The Price is Right with my grandfather in his room.
Yes, they each had their own bedroom. As a child, I didn’t think twice about that setup. It was only after he was gone and the room sat untouched that I thought it was odd for married people to sleep apart.
My grandmother was devastated when her husband of almost 40 years passed away quietly in his sleep. At the funeral, she tried to throw herself into his grave, while her half-brothers and sisters pulled her away from the freshly dug earth. It was the first time I had ever seen grief so deep, and it was the first time I had ever seen an abundance of emotion from my grandmother.
I never really connected with my grandmother after that day. She withdrew into herself, waiting for her time to come. She wouldn’t talk about how she felt, about her feelings for my grandfather, or about her life growing up. My mother and I continued to go to her condo for Friday night dinners, but the conversations were short, and not always cordial.
When my grandmother passed away in 2001, I took on the task of cleaning out her condo. Among the saved up rolls of paper towels and plastic bags, I found treasure after treasure. I was left sitting on the carpet in the master bedroom surrounded by the relics of a woman I realized I did not even know.
I had her Polish passport and her ticket from her voyage across the Atlantic to Halifax in 1929. She lied about her age and had her passport falsified so she could travel as a minor under the care of her aunt and uncle. Her parents? I have no idea what happened to them – other than the simple fact that my great-grandmother died when she was very young.
I found photos of her from a photo booth – remember those? The woman in the photos had a sparkle in her eye, and was having fun. I found a photo of her with her half-sister – two young ladies in their early 20s walking down the street in Toronto, in mid-laugh about something.
Such joy I had never seen from my grandmother. Ever.
I realized then that I knew almost nothing about my grandparents – both maternal and paternal. My own parents know very little about the histories of their parents. For many families of European Jewish decent, the stories are buried: in jewish cemeteries, in mass graves in concentration camps, in the lies of omission. Their stories are lost forever.
And that’s why I wish I had thought of this sooner.
The Family Video Legacy
It is so important for us to know our histories, to know where we started, to be able to hear the stories right from those who experienced them.
These biographical storytelling films will document the experiences, knowledge and insights of your family members. The legacy of your family will be captured in an interview format, complete with a selection of treasured images that can be shared and cherished for generations.
For pricing and package information, or to view a sample, please fill out the contact form.