On Tuesday, April 14, Beacher April Wilson-Lange celebrated her birthday, the 70th anniversary of her father’s liberation from a Second World War death march, and the launch of a fundraising campaign to fund a documentary about her search for her father’s past.
The journey to this point began when Wilson-Lange started looking into her father’s past, after the death of her mother. She decided to find out more about the man who died when she was only 10 years old, and ended up travelling as far away as Germany and her father, Tadeusz (Ted) Lange’s native Poland.
“I was always going to film it. The idea was that I would have something to show my son,” said Wilson-Lange, talking about her young son Oliver Lange-Brown.
The year her mother died was not a great one for Wilson-Lange, who was working too many hours in a job she didn’t enjoy, spending not nearly enough time with her son – 3 years old at the time – and dealing with her mother’s worsening sickness, which was compounded by addiction issues.
“I remember sitting on the bus going down Queen Street, looking out the window, thinking ‘How am I going to survive all this?’ And then I thought, ‘Well, my Dad survived Auschwitz.’”
At that point Wilson-Lange took a leave of absence to begin the process of finding out where she came from. And while the story of Chasing Chopin, the title for the proposed documentary, is told through Wilson-Lange’s search for her own past, she believes the story will appeal to a wider audience.
Even now, there are people like her dealing with the fallout from events that happened generations ago during the war.
“It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than my family, it’s bigger than I thought it would be,” she said. “There’s so many stories that people don’t have a chance to tell.”
While everyone knows at least some history of the Second World War, her research and visits to Poland brought home for Wilson-Lange just how much the war utterly changed the lives of everyone living in the country at the time.
“Whether you were Polish Catholic or a Polish Jew, your life was decimated,” she said.
Wilson-Lange’s father, a Catholic, spent time in four prison camps, including the notorious Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Somehow he managed to survive, and emigrated to Canada after the war, ending up in Sudbury, where Wilson-Lange grew up.
Chasing Chopin is named in honour of her father’s favourite composer, Frédéric Chopin – who Wilson-Lange said she later discovered is the favoured classical composer of almost every Polish person. The film is intended to be 45 minutes long. The research is almost complete, though some scenes still remain to be filmed in Poland.
To celebrate her father’s liberation and launch the fundraising campaign, Wilson-Lange gathered a group at, appropriately enough, Chopin Restaurant on Roncesvalles Avenue in the West End’s traditional Polish neighbourhood. For more on the film check out the crowdfunding campaign.