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Hana’s Suitcase arrives at Geordie on eve of their 35th

Hana Brady and her brother George were living normal lives as children in the 1930s in Moravia-Silesia, in today’s northeastern Czech Republic.

Their lives were shattered when the Germans occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and their parents were arrested and taken away, because they were Jews.

The children were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp and in Oct. 23, 1944, hours after her arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Hana was murdered in one of its gas chambers. Her brother George worked as a labourer and survived.

Hana’s story, hardly different from that of some 1 million Jewish children whom the Germans killed, would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the curiosity of some Japanese school children.

In March 2000, a suitcase was sent to the Tokyo Holocaust Educational Resource Centre from Auschwitz bearing the name Hana Brady, her May 16, 1931 birthdate, and the German word Waisenkind, or orphan.

The children who saw it were full of questions and the museum curator, Fumiko Ishioka, undertook a research journey to two continents to find the answers.

When Karen Levine, a documentary editor at CBC’s The Sunday Edition, read about it in the Canadian Jewish News she turned it into a book, telling the story of Hana and the way her suitcase aroused the curiosity of Japanese children and a serious researcher. Hana’s Suitcase was then adapted into a play by Montrealer Emil Sher and produced to great critical success in Toronto by Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre.

Geordie Productions is presenting the play Nov. 5-15 as it celebrates its 35th year.

The play, which was performed here in 2007, is being brought back because of it stands out among all productions, says Dean Fleming, Geordie’s artistic director.

“Because of its story, because of its beauty, because of its size, and because of its importance,” he said.

“It was the one we got the best response from in terms of shows we brought in,” he added.

The play has the same director in Allen MacInnis but different actors and a slightly different set.

“The story itself is what makes it so great, with its mixture of the contemporary, with the kids in Japan who are so curious about this suitcase, and the past.

“Yes, it’s a horrific story, but also such a beautiful story, a lovely introduction to the past.”

It also has schedules matinees on Saturdays, and two on Sundays during the run, at Concordia University’s D.B. Clarke Theatre, in the Hall Building, 1455 de Maisonneuve W. Tickets cost $14.50 for children, $16.50 for adults and seniors, and $18.50 for other adults, plus taxes. Group rates are available. Children should be at least 9 years old. Info: 514-845-9810.

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