20 October 2016

Eliane Labendz and Katka Reszke on an identity quest

Two women reveal their ways of making sense of experiences of memory and transition set against the landscape of troubled Polish-Jewish history, and a new curious present and future. Their conversation is part of Toronto Holocaust Education Week 2016.

Exploring the theme of the Future of Memory, the 36th annual Holocaust Education Week will run from November 2-9, culminating in a commemoration of the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass (November 9-10, 1938). HEW 2016 will contribute to our collective understanding of the Holocaust by exploring the theme via new scholarship, engaging in cultural and literary analysis, and providing an inquiry-based learning medium for new generations to hear firsthand accounts from those who survived the Holocaust.

Join us for a conversation between Eliane Labendz and Katka Reszke, representing the Second and Third Generation whose rediscovery of Polish-Jewish heritage was far from ordinary.

Eliane Labendz was born in Brussels, Belgium and moved to Canada as a pre-teen. Her parents, both from Warsaw, Poland, survived the Shoah - her father, who had been living in Belgium studying at the Université de Liège - as a soldier in the Polish Army in Exile and in the French Resistance; her mother by escaping the Warsaw Ghetto and hiding as a Christian, having been rescued by Poles who were named Righteous Among the Nations. Growing up in Belgium, Eliane was never told that she was Jewish nor much about Poland. Her parents wanted to shelter their children from any stories of atrocities that besot them during the Shoah. Only when the family moved to Montreal did she discover that she was Jewish.        
Working across Canada, Eliane was a public relations executive for many years as well as a magazine editor.  She worked mainly with politicians, including former prime ministers, senior government officials and CEOs of leading corporate organizations as well as with some international opera stars. For years Poland was the last place on earth she would even consider visiting. One day, the need to discover one’s roots became overwhelming... the results were amazing!  

Katka Reszke was born and raised in Poland with no awareness of her Jewish ancestry until an irrational hunch led her to discover the family’s background. She belongs to a “Generation Unexpected” of Jews that emerged in Poland following the collapse of communism. Katka is a writer, documentary filmmaker, photographer, performer, and researcher in Jewish identities. Author of Return of the Jew, Katka holds a Doctorate in Jewish Education from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and is currently a Research Associate at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute. Her documentary films include Shimon’s Returns (2014) and Coming Out Polish Style (2011). She served as chief screenwriter of the acclaimed film Karski & The Lords of Humanity (2015). Katka is one of the co-creators and performers in We Keep Coming Back, a Canadian-Polish theatre performance deconstructing Polish-Jewish narratives.  
She is currently working on The Meshugene Effect, a book and a documentary featuring stories of several Polish women, who embark on a pursuit of Jewish identity following an irrational feeling, a hunch about having Jewish ancestry.

Confronting the Demon – Dispelling the Demon         
Tuesday, November 8, 7pm
Congregation Habonim, 5 Glen Park Avenue, Toronto  
Admission free

Presented within the framework of Neuberger Holocaust Education Week 2016 by The Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto, Congregation Habonim and March of the Living Canada.

© 2012 Ministry of Foreign Affairs