25 August 2007

UK: Natasha Kaplinsky's family secrets

The hit BBC show "Who Do You Think You Are?" will be back on the air in the UK at 9 p.m., September 6, with British newscaster Natasha Kaplinsky as the subject and focusing on her father's family. The show takes her to Slonim, Belarus, where she learns about the family's fate, and to South Africa, where she discovers information about her ropemaker grandfather.

It was, says Natasha, like an agonising game of Pass the Parcel, unwrapping more of the truth every day, afraid of her family's response. "Of course I talked to my father about going over to Belarus and finding out what happened. It wasn't that he didn't want to know. But the generation above him didn't want to speak about it. There's a level of trauma across the entire family which is a familiar story among families caught up in genocide."

As you'll have gathered, the Kaplinsky saga doesn't end happily. Natasha, in her pristine white polo-neck and matching fur hood, discovers the village of Slonim, once in Poland, now in Belarus, from where her father's father, Morris, emigrated to South Africa in 1929 with his sister and brother. Family members who stayed behind fell foul of the Nazis, who invaded in 1941 and bundled the Jewish population into ghettos. Abraham, her great-uncle, killed himself in 1942 after his children, aged nine and two, were strangled. Great-Uncle Isaac, a Paris-trained doctor, escaped a massacre of 2,500 Jews and joined the partisans in the woods. The family patriarch and matriarch probably died when their family synagogue was torched.

In the article, Kaplinsky says the producers took her on a "mystery tour up the branches of her family tree." They told her to pack clothing appropriate for South Africa and for Belarus, and was taken to airport not knowing where she was going. She kept asking, "What have you found? Please tell me."

Last year, the show was also seen in Israel and elsewhere, so check your TV listings.

To learn more, read the article here.

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