Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Readers have been very surprised to learn about this part of history...

Interview with Greg Archer 
by Agnes A. Rose

Greg Archer is best known for his award-winning features on agents of change, celebrities, and health and environmental patriots, near and far. His work has appeared in Oprah Magazine, The Huffington Post, San Francisco Examiner, The Advocate, Palm Springs Life, Bust, Prevention, VIA Magazine and other portals. As host of GTv, he frequently covers arts-related events and other red carpet fodder around the United States and Canada. His latest book Grace Revealed: a memoir was released in January 2015. He splits his time between his hometown of Chicago and Palm Springs.

Agnes A. Rose: Thank you so much for your accepting my invitation to this interview. I am very honored to host you here. The American premiere of your book took place a few weeks ago. In “Grace Revealed: a memoir” you describe the dramatic history of your family. The story goes back to the Second World War and refers to the mass deportations to Siberia. Could you tell us what motivated you to write this book?

Bedford (USA) 2015
Greg Archer: Growing up, I always heard stories from my family about some “adventures” they had when they were younger. At first, these stories were about their time in Tanzania, Africa, living in an orphanage. I was very curious. How did they get to Africa? Why were they there? By the time I was in high school, after asking for more details, I learned so much more – that they were among 2 million Polish people deported to Siberia by Stalin. And that after the Poles had been granted an “amnesty” in 1941, they became refugees and somehow wound up in a British-run orphanage in Africa. I felt that this under-reported chapter in history needed to be told; that the Poles should be given justice. I also wrote the book as a kind of catharsis; to heal myself, too.

Agnes A. Rose: I am very interested to find out how your American readers understand your book. Could you tell us about it?

Greg Archer: Readers have been very surprised to learn about this part of history. It’s not in the mainstream. Many people are aware of what Hitler did during the 1940s, but few people are aware of the full extent of Stalin’s wrath and the people it affected. So, there is, first, surprise. I am also finding that my generation – the offspring of those who may have endured this; those now in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s who have an interest in ancestry and genealogy, are particularly curious, too. Because the book also explores my own journey uncovering this information and bringing it to light.

Agnes A. Rose: It seems to me that we sometimes forget a little bit about the mass deportations of 1940s. I think that much more often we talk about the Adolph Hitler’s unimaginable suffering inflicted upon both the Polish people and the entire world. Why is it so? How do you think?

Greg Archer: It’s fascinating to me that to this day, Stalin is often overlooked. My sense is that after Hitler attacked Russia in 1941, and Stalin then decided to align with the Allies to defeat him, that something happened. It was as if the group mind said: “Well, OK, Stalin is going to help us, so let’s not really look at the reality of what he did; let’s just brush it under the rug for now and move on.” In the meantime, he took over Poland, made it a Communist country, for the most part, and I think that, collectively, the Polish people never really had time to rally together and unite on this subject. They, too, swept it under the rug to some extent. Perhaps. I’m just trying to understand it myself. My sense is that because the country was suddenly Communist… and remained so for many decades, that this sort of thing could not be talked about. It is only now, 75 years later, that many stories from that time period are finally coming to light. And as such, Stalin is being exposed for the man he was.

Agnes A. Rose: While reading I very strongly felt your tremendous emotional bond with your grandmother. In my opinion she was a very brave woman. Could you tell us something more about her?

Greg Archer: She was extremely brave. In some ways, I felt haunted and hunted by her. She had a strong will but, from what I understand and have come to know, a very strong faith. I think that is what pulled her through. That is was what helped her keep her children alive.

Agnes A. Rose: I think that it must have been very difficult to you to write this dramatic history relating to your family. Could you tell us what kind of emotions accompanied you while writing?

Greg Archer: We could be here all day. Emotions? I joke. Well, it really felt as if I were re-living the entire intensity and impact of their original experience – from boxcar ride to Siberia, to the labor camps, to being refugees. I feel strongly that past generational unresolved trauma lives within each of us; and that this was my opportunity to bring it to the surface; to excavate it from within and attempt to shift. It’s been a very befuddling and intense journey… but one filled with many blessings, too.

Agnes A. Rose: And what was then? Did you feel a relief after finishing the book?

Greg Archer: Yes. But more so exhaustion. I felt, and to some extent still do, as if something very intense occurred… that I had gone through something. There’s a state of realignment attempting to take place I think.

Polish families deported during the Soviet occupation of Kresy. 
The number of Poles extracted from their homes and sent into barren land in 
Siberia exceeded 1.6 million. 

Agnes A. Rose: How long were you looking for a publisher? Was it easy or difficult?

Greg Archer: I knew of the publisher I chose and I chose them because I knew they could get the book out before Feb. 10 2015. It was important to me to have the book out this year because it was the 75th anniversary of the mass deportations.

Agnes A. Rose: In your book you also describe your trip to Poland and visiting the church in Łąka near Rzeszów where many years ago your grandparents met for the first time. What did you feel while standing inside the church knowing that one day in the same place your grandparents were praying?

Greg Archer: It was rather ethereal… as if the veils of time and space had been lifted; as if they were all there just seconds ago, and suddenly I arrived. Perhaps one of the most cosmic experiences I have ever had.

Agnes A. Rose: Would you like to visit Poland again? What did you like most during your last stay here?

Greg Archer: YES. I would very much like to speak at different places/universities and such, about the book and other things. I would love to visit Zakopane and be there for a while and venture to many villages and towns throughout .I would love to experience Białystok.

Agnes A. Rose: After I had published my review of your book, some Polish readers expressed their regret that they could not read it in Polish. Are there any plans regarding the book publication in Polish? Do you know anything about this?

Greg Archer: There are plans to have it translated and I will keep readers alerted on Facebook and the website. So, hopefully very very soon.

Agnes A. Rose: Let’s talk for a moment about your work. You are also an entertainer and a journalist. You do interviews with the most famous Hollywood celebrities. Could you tell us a little bit about this part of your job?  

Greg Archer: For many years, I wrote, and still do at times, about people who are in film and TV. It’s been illuminating and I try to connect to the person that they are rather than the “celebrity” everybody sees. I have talked to some very fascinating people whose work beyond their celebrity is very intriguing.

Agnes A. Rose: You have just written the book, so now you are an author, too. Are you planning to work on next books in the future?

Greg Archer: Yes. I have another book outlined and plan to dive more deeply into it in the coming months… the central theme is “home” – the idea/feeling/concept of “home.”

Agnes A. Rose: Finally, I would like to ask you about the role of the “signs” in your life. In your book you frequently mention them. Do you really believe in them? Do they lead your life?

Greg Archer: Yes. I do believe in them. I feel led and guided all the time. I think we all are; we just need to be open to see thing I suppose; view things differently. Something like that. For me, I just need to get out of my own way.

Agnes A. Rose: Thank you very much for this conversation. Is there anything you would like to add?

Greg Archer: Thank you so very much. Good to be here.

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here
If you want to read the book review, please click here

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