Old Stock: a refugee love story opens today as part of Canada Scene. Apt613 got in touch with Hannah Moscovitch to learn more about the inspiration for Old Stock and how it came together. Here is an excerpt from our conversation. For more about Old Stock, be sure to check out our preview.
Apt613: I read that some of your earlier works were inspired by books, East of Berlin by The Legacy of Silence and What a Young Wife Ought to Know by Dear Dr. Stopes: Sex in the 1920s. What inspired the writing of Old Stock?
Hannah Moscovitch: When my son was born a lot of my family came and visited me in Halifax to meet Elijah and I took my Aunt Enid to Pier 21, the museum that memorialized where so many Canadians entered into Canada. They have an office there where you can look up records. So we started looking and we found the entry dates of Chaim Moscovoitch, my great grandfather and Chaya Yankovitch, my great grandmother which meant they would have been standing there where we were in 1908 which was very moving.
Apt613: And you hadn’t known this before?
I had no idea. It was my Aunt’s idea to go to Pier 21. It would have been Pier 2 then in 1908 but I didn’t even know where they’d come in or when. Also, because they were fleeing pogroms, this was a point of safety for them; they had reached a point of safe harbour so that was moving because anyone who stayed in Romania was killed.
My son had just been born so I had a different feeling about my family history. Because we were one of those shit poor families, who came and had nothing, brought one potato with us and because everyone wanted to forget Romania because of how bad it was by the time people were leaving, no one speaks Romanian or Yiddish, in the family, no one thinks of themselves as Romanian and yet we are. We do have a family history just nobody knows it.
And I had never been interested in it in the same way in the past that I’ve never interested in how my fridge works. Honestly, I think part of why it was so moving was because of what was going on with Syrian refugees. I remember because it was around the same time we went to Pier 21. I remember the day: Elijah was getting his first vaccination at two months and it was the same day the picture of Alan Kurdi on the beach in Turkey was in the news and because I had just had a son, the thought of losing a child like that registered more extremely. So I had this idea of people making journeys to try and save the family in my mind and then I was at the same time reading that my family had made one of those journeys.
Apt613: It’s almost like you accidentally created this story where the personal is political and which got more political as time went on.
It so did. We can’t believe it. When we were working on it Trump hadn’t been elected yet, there wasn’t the extreme vetting there wasn’t this question of a ban from seven Muslim countries and then that started. And it was Harper who was prime minister when all this was happening and then Trudeau bringing in 25,000 Syrians – all of that has happened since we started working on the project so it keeps accruing relevance weirdly and unexpectedly.
Apt613: What have been some of the challenges of pulling off this show?
Well, in the last year when we’ve been working on it I have a son (laughs). We workshopped it in Banff and Edmonton and the thing I think of immediately is Elijah in a hotel room. Before we were parents, Christian and I thought it was a good idea working together but the actual truth is there’s no one with the baby except whoever you can find in Banff. It was logistically more difficult than we’d imagined it’d be. All of the challenges are in the zone of learning how to do all the things you learn when you’re a parent and at the same time trying to be creative and being psychotic with sleep deprivation.
Apt613: How do you feel about being part of Canada Scene?
It’s so lovely. I was just in Seattle working in Seattle Rush as part of Canada 150 doing a bunch of events with the Consulate General in Seattle and I was like, I really like talking about Canada. I’m a nationalist. I love representing my country.
The funny thing is that recently when I’ve been talking about Canada I’ve found one of the things my nationalism resides in is what we do where we go we’re a safe haven but not always. We’ve made mistakes and we’re still working on it. I find that so moving that we’re willing to learn and admit out mistakes.
There’s those countries where you think that, as a nation, they’re in denial or that’s a country that’s neurotic and you hope with Canada that we’re not that, that we’re going to be a country that’s self reflective and self aware.