A bucket of tears later, here is the film demo for The Traitor’s Daughter!  By

A bucket of tears later, here is the film demo for The Traitor’s Daughter!

Armed with a brand new pink manual typewriter and an illicit pack of smokes, I began writing Mom’s story when I was a ten-year old kid in Netherhill, Saskatchewan. In the midnight hours, I loved the sound of the keys smacking the paper and the magic of those first typed sentences, giving form and permanence to an elusive story that has obsessed me ever since. Now, I share it with you. It’s only a taste. We’re still months from full on production.  But, let me know: is this a movie you want to see? 

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Don’t leave this site please, without giving me your impressions! I promise I will respond to each comment. I want to engage you, the audience, right from the beginning of this epic journey.

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In my next blog, I take you behind the scenes as I experiment with dramatization as a useful tool for the film. In what turned out to be a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the Traitor’s Daughter, I directed  half a dozen ‘re-creations’ of Nazi terror for my national Remembrance Day special, airing on Global TV’s Prime Time Current Affairs Program, 16X9 on November 9th, at 7:00 pm. Let’s just say, the neighbours weren’t impressed.

79 Comments

  1. Claude Adams

    Roxana, this is remarkable work.I don’t often use the word “transfixed” but I will use it here. Are there really secrets so profound that they must be kept in the shadows, even from a daughter looking for a way into a mother’s heart? The more resistance you get, the more you are warned off, the more we need you to persevere. This is deep stirring stuff.

  2. Susan Penner

    Roxana, I found the video compelling and chilling. You are very talented in the telling of a fascinating story. It reminded me of all the soldiers who return from war with PTS syndrome and don’t want to talk about their experiences. I’m guessing but it seems your mother coped well with her life after the war. I wish I could have met her. I look forward to seeing the documentary when it is finished.

    1. I am glad that the story of surviving war trauma has this kind of resonance for a contemporary audience. And thanks again for taking the time to add your thoughts, and I wish you had met her too. She was the most interesting person I ever had dinner with…

  3. thanks for your feedback, Claude!

  4. Just viewed the video, Roxana. I am almost speechless. Fascinating, compelling, riveting – meanwhile the viewer watching the terrible turmoil for you. This story is addicting….I want to know all.

    1. Your reaction really encourages me to forge forward! I hope you will continue to watch the website for weekly updates. I never anticipated that I would become so much a part of the story itself….but the film is taking on its own life…

  5. Beatrice Politi

    what could be so horrible that she could not share? but perhaps it is that horrible. whatever it is, it’s the truth. and that should be known. to you. what i just watched was riveting

  6. Donalda Young

    I think if your Mom knew how many people support you in the effort to bring her story to the public she would be very proud of you. I just wished your Mom could have known and believed in her life time that we do not judge the victims as harshly or blame them as in the past.

  7. Wow, Roxanna – powerful and provocative. Looking forward to seeing the film!

  8. Larry Warwaruk

    I just finished watching it, Roxana. It’s wonderful; the emotions are very deep and sincere. The very fact that your mother went back suggests to me that she hadn’t committed some traitorous deed against her homeland. If she had, I don’t she would ever have gone back to see to see her sister. But there is something dark, as your mother says.
    Perhaps the only traitorous act had to do with the mass Red Army surrenders that Stalin forbade. I liked the little piece with the young translator. I also felt that the sister, and perhaps the entire community knows something. Perhaps you need more time there. Did you find out from your mother’s sister if the family had always lived where she is living? When will the full length documentary be available? Just as an aside, some of the language sound

    1. Did you know that 2 million Soviet POW’s who returned to the Soviet Union after the war were re-imprisoned for ‘allowing’ themselves to be captured? it is a little known fact of WW2. My mom would have been one of them, if she had not come to Canada…

  9. Susan Francis

    Roxana I am speechless and so close to tears. And frustrated. I can only try to imagine how you feel. How strong you are to try to get through this; to find the answers. I believe in my heart that your Auntie and Cuz are wrong. So wrong. What happened to your Mom has been a silent part of your life. That has impacted on you and your family. It has coloured your world and deeply. By not talking about it, does not erase your Mom’s past. That is akin to trying to erase her!! In fact, I believe that by not talking about does a dis-service (is that a word?) and actually dishonours your Mom and others like her. What your Mom has gone through, the pain, the suffering in silence, the pure surviving.. should be celebrated! Her absolute strength MUST be acknowledged!! Please continue to pursue this. NOt for anyone else.. but for your Mom.. even if she didn’t want it. Please continue to celebrate what she went through and that she survived!!! Her story must be told. For it is those souls who gave up giant pieces of themselves so that others in this world could enjoy the freedoms that we have now. Tell your auntie that you cannot let that piece dissolve.. the world has much to learn (still) Much to you

  10. I am learning so much about the support out there, especially with the hometown crowd in Saskatchewan, Thank you!

  11. I am captivated by this compelling saga. I want to know more, to understand not just what your mom went thru and survived, but what secrets she is so afraid of revealing. I think the bravery she possessed to survive the Nazis has been passed on to you as you endure to discover the truth.

  12. I follow every word you post…..I read of a fascinating story in very dark time.
    You must fell a tremendous void in the relationship you had with your mother…I believe the research must go on…the story told……

  13. Howard Bernstein

    This wonderful and heartbreaking at the same time. You cannot turn away.

  14. Nice to see your mum on film, brought back memories of Jan and I sitting and talking with her in Hazel’s ‘Palace’ in Netherhill! Great work, no stopping now

  15. Joanne Knowlton

    You were right about the trailer being the most intriguing 11 minutes of my Friday. I was left wanting more.

  16. Maxine Schmaltz

    Leaves me rather speechless Roxanna. I sure do hope you are able to continue with your task and compete your documentary! You have taken on a huge mission and have me interested in you seeing it through! Thank you!

  17. Tom and Brenda Fergusson

    You really have me wrapped up in the story Roxanna.

  18. Audry Buttar Copses

    Hi Roxana, I find family so interesting. About five years my family learned of a secret that had been kept from us for over 80 years. Our info had been given to us by an extended family member who we didn’t know existed. But for someone to do the type of research that you are doing must be exciting, frightening and overwhelming. I can’t even imagine the emotions that you are experiencing. I am really looking forward to seeing your updates and your final work. Take care,

  19. If my story gives other people the impetus to explore their own family stories, I feel like that it is a major bonus. And more motivation to press on with this very emotional project. Thanks Audry…

  20. leslie fruman

    “So intriguing – and moving. Personal stories like this always resonate with audiences – because everyone is always looking for themselves in other people’s stories – and a deeper understanding of their own stories. Everyone has a mother, every woman is a daughter – relationships always have their secrets. Can’t wait to see more of this. Good luck with the hunt for hidden stories.”

  21. Dorothy Buchanan Aitken

    WOW – Roxanne – I can’t imagine the turmoil this “secret” has created throughout the lives of your family – immediate and extended. Your Mom had incredible strength and fortitude to take this secret to her grave. Her fears, of the far reaches of the past were so great, that she believed it could touch her family. The Cold War was not that long ago and impacts many…………….as is evidenced by your extended family. However, I believe the story must be told and your Mom would now understand. Please continue on your quest — I, along with many others, want to hear the whole story.

  22. I am torn Roxana, knowing your inner struggle….while at the same time producing this film in such a way that ‘honours’ your Mom. A fine balance between film producer and daughter…..a tough and courageous project.

  23. Dorothy, your observations are dead on. But there is still a lot of work to do to tell this story so do please visit the website every Friday for updates.!

  24. Nicole Bennett

    Unfortunately, I had no audio for this. However, it was good to see your mother, worked for her years ago where I met you once. Will figure out what is wrong here and watch it with audio. Can hardly wait!!!!

  25. I have always thought Roxanna that those few of us who are privileged to make documentaries that matter share a common bond — we seek truths, sometimes in spite of ourselves.

    The outward and visible truths about others, whatever the circumstance, come relatively easy.

    It’s the truths about ourselves, which come hard.

    I applaud and join you on your search.

    And remind you of Tennyson’s words:

    Though much is taken, much abides; and though
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

  26. Sarah Griffith

    I believe that stories such as your mothers should be shared, although we should be careful to give the respect due to the persons involved because we will have never experienced the things they had to. By sharing these stories it helps us younger generations to hopefully not make the same mistakes of the past(by no means do I mean the victims of those horrible times made any mistakes, but mistakes like the world sitting back and not challenging a man like Hitler coming to power). Ignorance can cause a repeat in history and we owe it to our future generations to stop a repeat if at all possible. I don’t believe that you’d be making this documentary just for kicks, it has a much deeper significance. Not just to answer your own questions, which I can definitely understand, but to bring awareness to others that if we don’t know our history that things like this could happen all over again. My husbands grandfather fought in World War 2 on the side of the allies, though he was German, and it was very difficult for him to speak of his experiences. He did open up to me and he lived with guilt for the things he had been forced to do and lost all his faith because of the things he saw and experienced. I believe this was why he was hesitant to talk about it. I don’t judge him, I wasn’t there, and my lifetime has been a peaceful one

  27. That was sad to watch as I found out a lot of things my mom kept secret from me until close to her death, I think she was very brave to tell me, but she didn’t tell everything ,, very sad…….

  28. I am overwhelmed with the early results of the response to my film demo. You have no idea how much courage I get from your comments especially as I undertake such a private stuggle in such a public way. Well, I always said Filmmaking was better than than valium…! Thank you all…

  29. As my oldest best childhood friend, Val, you know better than anyone what a struggle this is, your words mean the world to me. I hope I am doing my mom justice, even as I defy her deathbed wish to remain silent about all that she endured during the Second World War.

  30. “I also agree with Susan and feel that the world needs to know the truth. We leave too many wrong doing unspoken. Those graveyards have stories that should have been told years ago. It may not bring back lives but it would help us appreciate the sacrifices and realize just how bad things were – not just bury them. I think your mom’s own fear and the fear of putting her family in danger is what kept her from telling the stories of her past. “If you did not know the stories – the truths; no one could force it out of you!”"

    1. My mother always said to me, “history be damned! Did you ever wonder why I kept silent all these years?” I hear her voice now, and wonder if she would have felt the same way, if she had known how many people would have supported her, in the telling of her story.

  31. Diane Clark Quinney

    “The Traitor’s Daughter is a very compelling story. (Your Mom’s reunion with her sister always leaves me in tears) I’m sorry that your decision to tell her story causes you so much pain, it’s obviously tearing you in two.”

  32. I approach all the new ‘clues’ to the ‘missing thousand days of my mom’s life’ during the War, with a combination of fear and exhilaration. It remains to be seen which emotion will win out, as we press on with this demanding film..

  33. carolyn jarvis

    Roxana, this is riveting…. Do not stop on your quest to find the answers you have been looking for, for decades. We are all watching and listening.

  34. Colleen McManus Rempel

    Well Roxana, you are definitely worthy of the title storyteller. This trailer is so interesting , sad, and compelling, the story that needs to be told. It takes a lot of talent and guts to work on a story like this especially with the amount of resistance you are meeting.
    I remember your mom coming to speak to our class in high school and show us the number on her arm. She spoke of the war and how awful it was. Her speaking really brought it home to us how utterly cruel and senseless the whole thing was. If I remember correctly, she said she walked out of Germany carrying a sewing machine on her back as she knew she would need a way to earn a living when she got to freedom. She was such a character and a good woman.

  35. Roxana, it is very very good. I feel honoured to have known you all these many years. But even if you were a stranger, the story would still be mesmerizing. You are very brave in making this film, as I have always known you to be.

  36. wow, I can feel your struggle and heartache. To me it’s about victims not being made to feel ashamed… but about the lessons taught by the darkness of our history … we cannot be allowed to forget. As with many decisions we have to weigh the good and the bad, go with your gut feeling and the heart will follow, I feel you are doing this for the right reasons and not just for the ” journalist” in you.. Good luck and wishing you inner peace.

  37. don’t forget Roxana your aunt lived in fear a long time as did your mother. They believed they were not only protecting themselves but their families also. I believe you are preserving history , you also may find out things you didn’t want to know, but your journey will be rewarding . and you are doing a great job..

  38. Susan Marjetti

    it’s very powerful Roxana. I can only imagine how hard it was to tell. And I truly look forward to seeing more…well done my friend.
    Cheers
    Susan

  39. Getting high level support from senior management at CBC who have also had years of experience in the field of telling stories, well, that’s very encouraging for me. Thank you Susan, and I hope you will continue to follow my weekly blog…!

  40. Jeanette C Jackson

    I was disappointed when the Kindersley Museum cancelled your event. The story is incredible. Will you be rescheduling? I was wondering if you knew, even in general, how many Russian war brides there are in the U.S,? Around the world? Please keep going, my family and a few friends are addicted to your Friday updates.

  41. Jeanette C Jackson

    I was disappointed when the Kindersley Museum cancelled your event. The story is incredible. Will you be rescheduling? I was wondering if you know, even in general, how many Russian war brides there are in the U.S,? Around the world? Please keep going, my family and a few friends are addicted to your Friday updates.

  42. To all my friends in the Kindersley area, I will be rescheduling my film screening of the Behind The Scenes work of the Traitor’s Daughter for sometime before Christmas and look foward to meeting with all of you in person for a lively discussion and a couple shots of vodka!

  43. just watched your moving video, without sound no less! ( My computer is blocked.) Even without the sound it was transfixing,. You are so talented with your words and the shots are terrific. Well done Roxana

    1. Thanks Bev, as we are trying to reach out to a new audience, I really appreciate your comments. I always said the test of a good film was whether it worked without any narration! I take your comments as high praise!

  44. maxine crook

    Oh Roxana….it’s a great!! demo. I so admire you for pursuing it despite all the obstacles (I’m guessing that the worst negative for
    you was the criticism of your aunt and other relatives. But you are so right to pursue this! Congratulations….hope there’s a
    wonderful gala opening for it.
    tu amiga Max (I vividly recall your mom’s vibrancy and energy, sense of humour and joie de vivre at my dinner table. She
    was a no-nonsense woman, with a great personality.

  45. Max, you are the doyen of story-telling: as the former network producer of Journal Arts program at CBC, your opinion means the world to me. Thanks!

  46. Calleen Keslick

    Roxana Thankyou for sharing the story of your mother every clip of her I feel like I am there in the diner your house or she is sitting at the kitchen table with mom. Two fiery women sharing vodka and opinions. Roxana the story is fantastic I realize it is very hard on you but I truly believe the only reason she didn’t want the story told is she never wanted you kids to feel her pain and humiliation of what she had go thru but she was a survivor and has pased that down you kids

  47. Roxana,

    It was Adrienne Rich who said that the mothers we daughters needed were silenced before we were born.

    It takes courage to open yourself to your mother’s story. Her story is, in fact, ALL our mothers’ story. If one of us is caught in the past then none of us are free.

    It is no accident that Agnes Spicer birthed a career journalist. It is and always has been your mission to tell this story.

    Free all beings from sadness.

    Free all beings from shame.

    Therein lies the REAL POWER of the story you are compelled to tell.

    Shine the light of your storytelling into the distant past so all women may be free. The purpose of telling your mother’s story is to heal the blocked energy that creates a shadow on our collective heart. It haunts you because it is yours to tell.

    You are one fearless and fierce woman.

    Much love & support from me, a Prairie Sister.

    1. wow, powerful sentiments. I hope I can live up to them! I am driven by a sense of justice, that somehow the story of the suffering and survival and triumph should never vanish. I felt that from the time I was old enough to light a smoke and hit the keys of my pink typewriter at the age of …gosh..yes, 10!

  48. This is a story that needs to be told. I feel like you will be releasing all of the torment and shame your mother had felt about her previous life in Russia. This story is so compelling and it is all too familiar the shame and secrecy of war. Sharing this helps us all understand the human soul and the complexities.
    Bravo Roxana for bringing this issue to life. I hope your film gets all of the recognition and success it deserves. I feel privileged to have seen the beginnings of this story!

  49. Who owns the story? Who owns the memories of the dead? these are the universal questions this film intends to mine. I don’t have the answers, but I think it is a question we all need to think about.

  50. Thank you for adding me as a friend, Roxana. I was captured by your story/film through a post on Don’s page, and I am very happy to have a way to follow it’s progress. If I had any money – I’d fund you! Such an amazing story, on so many levels, not least of which is what a mystery parent’s lives are to their children.
    Your mother’s life was indeed remarkable, and her story should be told. Thank you for giving me a way to keep up with developments!
    Best wishes, Susan!

  51. Alex Bystrin

    this is important and should be done. i hope it happens.

  52. Johanne Brownrigg

    It is a promise of something powerful to come. “personal iron curtain” sums it up perfectly

  53. Jaye Ewing Procure

    I want to know more!! My mother’s family is from Russia and the Ukraine (although they immigrated long before Spicer’s) and when I hear and watch the people in this clip, it reminds me so much of trying to get info about much less important things, from my grandmother and great-aunt. I wish Ms. Spicer all the luck in the world.

    1. This kind of engagement really moves me to keep moving forward with uncovering the story, searching for universal themes that will appeal to all ages of audience. After all, we all have secrets, don’t we? And who owns them, in the end?

  54. Peggy Daly-Bredin

    Such immeasurable suffering was inflicted during the war. A reminder of the freedom we must prize so highly.

  55. Lori Colesnik

    Roxy I watched it. May the good lord give you all the strength to carry you through. I will keep wringing my hands and wwait for your next up date. Thankful you helped me get there.

  56. Ulrike Wiemer

    I agree, love the treatment in the trailer and your approach to telling your story, there are so many people already waiting to find out more and watch the finished movie. Just sent the link to a bunch of my friends!

  57. Shelly Struthers

    watched the first trailer. . . wow! The secrets our parents keep.

  58. “What amazing engagement Roxana! You have a very compelling story to tell. I love the treatment in the trailer. You’ve really done a great job of presenting your dilema. We want to see more!!”

  59. Louise Bourne

    “Your demo is fabulous Roxana. I am so happy that you have the tenacity and strength to see this project through to the end. I work in a school and the Social teachers are looking forward to showing this to the kids. It is history that cannot be forgotten.”

  60. The fact that teachers are responding to this blog, and recognizing the value in using the power of story-telling as a valuable tool to keep history alive, wow…that makes my work so much more gratifying than you can imagine. Thank you for your comment, Louise!

  61. Donalda Young

    I think if your Mom knew how many people support you in the effort to bring her story to the public she would be very proud of you. I just wished your Mom could have known and believed in her life time that we do not judge the victims as harshly or blame them as in the past

  62. Sharon Gordon

    Very moving, a must tell story!!

  63. Between YouTube and Vimeo, more than 1,000 people have watched the film demo in the first week of posting. I have had dozens of comments and a couple pretty sharp criticisms too. That is the risk in transparent film-making, and the reward. Every comment gives me something to think about, and helps shape the final documentary. I hope I can continue to get so much audience engagement as I move forward with this very emotional project.

  64. Denisova Ludmila

    это очень тяжело..

    (It is very heavy…)

  65. The Russian Facebook version of The Traitor’s Daughter has had 1300 ‘likes’, and dozens of comments. Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of exhuming family secrets from the past. Perhaps there is a cultural difference between Russia and Canada as well. In Russia, the ability to keep a secret was the key to surviving the darkest days of Stalin, only two generations ago.

  66. Marie Natanson

    I looked at your film demo and certainly it’s whetted my appetite to see more. I found it very intiriguing but a mite confusing.
    Maybe this will all be clearer in the finished film but I wanted to know why your mother was branded a traitor or at least what compelled you on this remarkable voyage. You mentioned late night vodka fuelled chats but what did your mother actually say or what prompted you on your search?
    I appreciate you wouldn’t want to give this away at the start of your film, nor promo but I just needed a bit more….So maybe just me!
    On another point, I didn’t realize that Auschwitz was the only place that tattooed it’s prisoners. I looked it up at the woman you had was certainly right.
    Anyway good luck with the film and hope all goes to plan
    Best wishes
    Marie

  67. Mom was branded a traitor by Stalin because she ‘allowed’ herself as a Soviet Red Army soldier, to be captured by the Nazis. On that basis alone she would have served several years in the gulags upon her return to Russia, as was the fate of 2 million other returning POW’s to Stalin’s Russia. The title is also a play on words, because my grandmother was also judged to be “an enemy of the people’ by Stalin and died shortly after her imprisonment in the gulags of Pinsk. A hell of a long way away from her home in the Ural Mountains. Ironicaly, it was the German invasion that triggered our grandmother’s release from the gulagas, as all able bodied Soviet citizens were needed to fight the Nazi invaders.

  68. Continue to uncover these mysteries Roxana. The film demo leaves me with many unanswered questions which I hope you can answer with a finished film in the future. Keep opening those locked doors!

  69. Brenda Pincemin Ylioja

    I am also one who waits for your updates! The trailer was so moving. I watched it and then watched it all over again. My opinion is that in Russia secrets are the key to survival just as you said. Growing up in Russia, your aunt must have seen and heard so much. Now being asked to remember and tell those secrets must make her so terribly afraid

  70. Brenda Pincemin Ylioja

    I watched the trailer and then watched it all over again. So heart wrenching. As you said, secrets were the key to survival. After living in those terrible times and living in a country where secrets still haunt her, it must be terribly frightening for your aunt to even whisper what she remembers. Maybe seeing all the support you have from people around the world will help her to understand how important this story is to us and future generations. Good luck!

  71. Roxana I am so glad you shared this with me today in the makeup room. I am super over the top fascinated with this story. I cannot wait to watch. You are amazing.

    1. Samantha, your enthusiasm for this story helps to fuel the huge undertaking of unravelling three generations of secrets: even my own grandmother’s death was kept a secret from the family until fifty years after she had died. Yes, we need to share our stories, and, please keep checking for my weekly updates, as we ramp up for full scale film production in the New Year.!

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