An Untold Story
Growing up on New York’s Upper West Side, I knew my mother as “Tamar.” She spoke with a thick Polish accent, had flaming red hair, painted her lips hot pink and wove a dramatic tale of escaping Europe on the eve of World War II when she was a little girl. “I was never a victim,” she’d say. “I was a freedom fighter.” But as I got older, I realized, her stories were as half-baked as the Sarah-Lee frozen pies she’d try to pass off as homemade. Whenever I asked for clarity, she'd reply: "No more questions." Then nearly 20 years after she died, my elderly great aunt has a slip of the tongue and out comes a revelation – my mother had a secret identity.
So here I was a mother and a journalist. I built a career interviewing others, and the person I thought closest to me turns out to be a stranger. I didn’t even know her name. It used to hurt me when she'd say: “You’re not my daughter.” Whose daughter was I? I drop everything to find out.
My Underground Mother is a gripping, first-person documentary film about my search for my late mother’s hidden identity that led me on a 7-year trek around the world excavating a buried past from the rubble of a Nazi women’s camp in a remote Czech town and the fading pages of a hidden diary penned by its inmates, 60 Polish Jewish girls who were trafficked there as teenage Nazi slaves, one of whom was my mother. Shot on location throughout the United States, Australia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Israel and Canada, My Underground Mother is a story about post-Holocaust identity lost and found, of a daughter hungering for connection with a mother, an empowering women’s story of trauma, survival, resistance, resilience and reinvention.
Marisa Fox has written for The New York Times, Haaretz, Elle, InStyle, O, New York, Newsday, the Los Angeles Times and many other publications.