Red Deerians will have the chance this week to see an intriguing Alberta-made film bringing the message that love endures all.
‘Waiting for Waldemar’ is a 45 minute docu-drama directed and produced by Albertan Eric Spoeth and will show at the Central Alberta Film Festival in Red Deer on Saturday, February 24 at 5:35 p.m. in the Scott Block Theatre.
Shot just outside of Edmonton in 2016 - 2017, Waiting for Waldemar is told from the perspective of two young children whose father disappeared during their harrowing escape with 12 million other refugees during the Second World War. A story based on Director Eric Spoeth’s real life experience of his grandfather, a baker who went missing around January 27, 1945 and his mother’s quest to find him.
Spoeth is Canadian but was born of Silesian and Dnieper-German immigrants, saying he made the film to show a side of World War 2 that isn’t taught in history books. A story he says was the greatest refugee crisis of the age – when 15 million ethnic Germans were expelled from countries they had lived in for hundreds of years, simply because of the DNA they shared.
“I grew up in Canada, unaware of the fact that my grandfather was part of this group of people who had no knowledge of the National Socialist Party or the architects of the Holocaust but who were killed or captured and sent to Siberia,” says Spoeth. “I was called a Nazi in the schoolyard before I even knew what a Nazi was. My parents chose not to speak German or to speak about our ethnicity because of the stigma of being a German in Canada.”
Spoeth became more curious about his family history once he became a father himself, realizing that his grandfather was the same age as him when he took his wife and four young children and fled their Russian home during the war, eventually becoming separated somewhere in the Ukraine on their way to Germany.
“I think they were in a place for about two or three months when my grandfather was going to go to the nearby bakery to get some flour to make some bread,” recounts Spoeth. “When he left, they suddenly had this surprise that the Soviets were an hour away and they would have to get out of the town as soon as they can. At that time, they were confiscating all the German men that they could find and either killing them or sending them to Siberia to work in the labour camps and him having a German accent, he would have surely been taken, so they were separated.”
Spoeth says his grandfather’s wife and four children then had no way of getting a message to him that they were leaving and would hopefully meet up with him later somewhere in Germany.
“What we surmise is that he was probably killed when he was probably taken by surprise,” says Spoeth. “But without bones and without a grave or any kind of record of anyone who ever heard of him, there’s no closure, so it’s really not a happy story in that sense.”
Spoeth admits his mother doesn’t really have closure regarding her father’s disappearance. However, what was interesting to him was when the film was first screened and his mother saw it for the first time, the actor who portrays his grandfather dies in a fictional scene of what might have happened to him. Spoeth says that gave his mother a feeling of closure because she actually hadn’t imagined her father dying.
“That was cathartic for her and I think for me as well, kind of knowing that in a small way, I was able to give her closure and peace.”
“When I see the face of human suffering, the Syrian civilians of today,” explains Spoeth. “I see history repeating itself. I feel the message of the film that love endures all, is as pertinent now as it was in 1945.”
Since being completed in 2017, ‘Waiting for Waldemar” has been shown in 20 cities so far, including Moscow, India, Northern Iraq and now Red Deer!
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