Vigour in the archives: Honouring International Women’s Day at the VHEC

93.07.0090, [Portrait of Dina Golovanevskaya], 5 Oct. 1942

Post written by Chase Nelson, Collections Assistant. Chase is a recent graduate of the UBC iSchool. 

What does it mean to be an activist? Is an activist someone who takes to the streets, linking arms with allies to collectively call for what is right? Do they ingrain themselves within a community in order to understand the problems that plague them and search for equitable solutions? Do they educate friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances about important causes? The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines activism as “the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about social or political change”—but what does “vigorous campaigning” look like? 

International Women’s Day, celebrated on March 8th, is a product of the vigorous campaigning of working-class women in the early 20th century. The Socialist Party of America called for the first National Women’s Day in 1909 in honour of widespread demonstrations and organizing around working women’s rights and welfare. Clara Zetkin vigorously campaigned for an International Women’s Day at the 1910 International Conference of Working Women, leading to its first celebration in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Austria in 1911. On February 23, 1917 (March 8 in the New Style dating system), a Women’s Day demonstration in Russia against food shortages and rights abuses under the autocratic Romanov dynasty grew to such great heights it led to the Tsar’s abdication from the throne a week later. March 8 was formalized as International Women’s Day by the USSR in 1922 and celebrated as a holiday in communist countries around the world for decades; the United Nations formally recognized the day in 1975 (Haynes, “The Radical Reason Why March 8 is International Women’s Day,” TIME, 2019).

Dr. Dina Golovanevskaya, whose records are newly available on the VHEC’s collections website, was likely one of the millions of women honoured during annual Women’s Day celebrations in the Soviet Union. Born in 1919 in Odessa, Ukraine during the height of the Russian Civil War, Dr. Golovan (as she often referred to herself) was a staunch patriot, decorated military veteran and distinguished medical professional.

As many archivists do, I came to meet Dr. Golovan not face-to-face but through the records and objects she left behind. She was one of the first individuals to donate personal records to the VHEC back when it was the Vancouver Holocaust Centre Society in the early 1990s. She donated copies of photographs, a couple letters from friends and a few Russian-language publications from visits to Holocaust memorial sites. Last year, as part of a Library and Archives Canada Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP) grant to digitize our legacy holdings and make them accessible in our collections catalogue, I reached out to Dr. Golovan’s daughter Erika Galinskaya to see if we could swap out some of the copies for originals.

We received much, much more: military records, speeches, articles, identification documents, certificates, correspondence, medical paraphernalia, the original photos and then some. From these records and conversations with Erika, we can tell a story of a woman who served in the front lines of some of the fiercest battles against fascism, dedicated her life to the medical profession and committed to community service and advocacy until the end.

Dr. Golovan served in the Red Army as a captain of medical service alongside other Jewish medical professionals from the Battle of Stalingrad to the fall of Berlin in 1945. After the war she advanced in the medical field; she worked as the Head of Laboratories at a hospital in Odessa for fifteen years, all while raising her daughter Erika as a single mother (her husband Jakob passed away in 1949 from complications from wounds received during the war).

2022.018.021, [Photograph of laboratory students in class], 1952

While Dr. Golovan’s love for her country was great, antisemitic bureaucracy prevented Erika from getting a merited job as a musician. The mother and daughter immigrated and settled in Vancouver in 1976, where Dr. Golovan committed to community work and quickly became a pillar in Jewish and Russian volunteer organizations. She was an active member and elected officer of the Shalom Branch #178 of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Workers for Zion. She frequently sent letters, published articles and gave speeches on topics she felt were important, from the defunding of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to the beauty of her native Odessa. While many of her medical certifications were not recognized by Canadian institutions, she never failed to address herself as “Doctor,” even inscribing the title in pen on articles where she was featured. She was a staunch advocate against antisemitism and Holocaust denial; she published multiple articles in the Jewish Western Bulletin and frequently corresponded with editors and politicians about egregious cases. Just weeks before she passed away in 1997, Dr. Golovan sent a letter to the Bulletin and the North Shore News condemning the latter for publishing articles by Doug Collins, a noted Holocaust denier; a version of the letter was published in the Bulletin.

Selection of 2022.018.055, Community Forum Sunday examines seniors survey, 21 Mar. 1991

I’m unsure if Dr. Dina Golovanevskaya identified as an activist. Based on her records, however, it is quite apparent that she was a campaigner of vigorous extent. Learning from Dr. Golovan’s life and the history of International Women’s Day, I am moved to honour this day by going beyond the simple celebration of a particular gender identity. Rather, we must recognize the continued oppression of the world’s most marginalized classes and celebrate those who identify as women around the world who tirelessly advocate for a just and better world for all.

2022.018.033, [Photograph at a Remembrance Day event], 11 Nov. 1989


Two Selves: Mariette Doduck’s book launch

Post contributed by Program Coordinator Pascale Higham-Leisen.

The parking lot was packed with parents dropping off their kids for swimming lessons, children were squealing with excitement at Nava café, parents and grandparents were waking up with steaming cups of coffee in hand. This is the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on a Sunday morning. The halls buzzed with anticipation for the launch of Marie Doduck’s memoir, A Childhood Unspoken, in the Norman and Annette Rothstein Theatre.

VHEC Executive Director Nina Krieger opened the event by introducing the Centre and its efforts to combat antisemitism and racism through Holocaust education. Nina highlighted International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the importance of survivor memoirs. She finished with a personal and moving introduction of Mariette. Arielle Berger, the Managing Editor of the Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Memoirs Program, remarked on the incredible work the Azrieli Foundation does. Arielle emphasized the Azrieli Foundation’s education programs and gave the audience a synopsis of Mariette’s memoir. Following a heartfelt introduction from Dr. Lauren Faulkner Rossi, the historical advisor for Marie’s memoir, Marie made her way onto the stage. As she crossed the stage, everyone in the audience rose in a standing ovation.

Photograph of two women seated in chairs on a stage, microphones in front of them, a bouquet of flowers sits between them.

Mariette Doduck (left) and Jody Speigel (right) of the Azreli Foundation discussing Mariette’s memoir. January 22, 2023. Photographed by Josias Tschanz.

Marie has close ties with each person in the room. You could hear a pin drop as she not only revealed the arduous task of reliving her story of survival, but also her reunion with Mariette, the child. As stated in her memoir and at the book launch, Mariette was forced to grow up quickly while in hiding from the Nazis. A childhood unspoken, until now. In her memoir, she explains the distinction between Mariette and Marie and recalls a pivotal memory marking a shift into her new identity as Marie. She was travelling via ship across the channel to England when she decided to throw overboard the remnants of an old red sweater her maman gave her. “I was too young, and not well enough physically, or old enough mentally, to reflect on the symbolism of the act, what it meant on different levels: a letting go of my childhood, which had been long destroyed in any case; an attempted goodbye to the Mariette of Europe, to the hunted little girl who survived the Nazis; a recognition that I was in transition, passing from one phase of life to another.”

Mariette held the room’s attention with her strength and vulnerability, as she took us through her experiences of being a child survivor, but also of writing a memoir. As a founding member of the Child Survivor Group here in Vancouver, Mariette described the significance of this group and the collective experience of being a survivor and how that affects their identity. “We, the first survivors that came here [Vancouver], we found out that we were always two people. We didn’t know we were two people. Because I accepted the name Marie as my Canadian name and Mariette I left. But when we [the child survivors] are together, we are our Jewish name and our European name… Mariette will never grow old. I was trying for the last 10 to 15 years to see if I can get Mariette to grow to my age. That will never happen. The child Mariette will always be the child inside me, and that’s what survivors live like.” Mariette mentioned, “it took me 40 years for me to expose myself to the community.” The resiliency and strength Mariette demonstrated in reliving her trauma, writing her memoir and sharing it with the world, is astonishing.

Mariette Doduck signing copies of her memoir, A Childhood Unspoken. January 22, 2023. Photographed by Josias Tschanz.

When asked what she wants readers and students to take away when they complete the book, she responded: “First, knowledge of the past, accepting we [survivors] are not frauds. That we survived, maybe we were left to survive to teach you not to hate.”

Since the launch, people have been purchasing copies of A Childhood Spoken. Books will be gifted to students visiting the VHEC courtesy of the Azrieli Foundation.

A unilateral success and incredible accomplishment for Mariette/Marie, we are reminded through her testimony and memoir: “Survival is a coat you never take off.”

Mariette Doduck will answer questions about her memoir in an upcoming Q&A on zoom, hosted by the VHEC and moderated by Dr. Abby Wener Herlin, Wednesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. Register to attend:  


Unfolding Memories and Reflections: Jennifer Roosma

Guest post by donor to the VHEC collection, Jennifer Roosma,

Around the time of my 17th birthday, five years after the death of my grandmother, my mother handed me a file folder filled with typewritten pages in English. The pages were covered with edits and corrections, some in pen, some in pencil, in handwriting I recognized as belonging to my mother and grandmother, and possibly that of a family friend. The pages were the first three chapters of my late maternal grandmother’s memoir. I learned later that these chapters were translated by Granny herself from German into English.

I wonder what my mother felt when she gave me those pages. At 17, she had fled for her life from Vienna, the city of her birth. Her father had been murdered, and she along with her mother and older sister were refugees from Nazi terror living in London, England.

I enjoyed the three chapters immensely, recognizing many of the stories my mother loved to tell me and my brothers (and which I now repeat to my own children!). New details and stories fascinated me. I read and reread and wanted more.

The memoir covered my grandmother’s elementary school experiences and escapades, and stories of her brothers, their artistic abilities, and the jobs they obtained with the help of the rich branch of the Gutmann family. There’s a funny story about a dancing teacher hired to teach the teenage boys to dance… I couldn’t help remembering the waltz lessons my mum gave my brothers and I in her study.

Photograph with three adults, two children, a table set with food in foreground.

Family dinner celebrating Granny’s birthday, ca. 1968. My Dad looking rather jolly! Elder brother taking the photo.

My childhood memories of my grandmother, as well as these three chapters of her memoir, and the stories and expressions my brothers and I repeat to this day, reinforce our family tradition of telling stories with humour, and usually with laughter directed at ourselves. This is a gift for which I’m so grateful and which I hope will be passed on to our children.

At age 44, after both my parents had passed away, I inherited my grandmother’s memoir in its original German, entitled “Meine Erinnerungen.” On the title page I recognized my name, written in her European slanting script, translated to: Dedicated to my granddaughter, Jennifer Elisabeth Dolman.

My grandmother was 44 when she fled Vienna with her teenage daughters and was widowed a few days later; her husband murdered in a Vienna Gestapo prison. It suddenly struck me that my grandmother, whom I had known only in her 70s, had been exactly my age at the time when these traumas had occurred. This realization was very moving for me and opened up a huge chasm of pain. My mother had shared so little of her trauma, but it was there, and over the next few years, it was my turn to experience it deeply.

Today at age 64, approaching 65, I am the age my grandmother was when she wrote her memoir. I’m thrilled to announce that her story has been published in its original German by Danzig & Unfried, based in Vienna, thanks to the work of Dr. Ernst Grabovszki, a professor at the University of Vienna in the Department of Literature. The book is for sale on a number of websites, including Amazon. In honour of International Women’s Day, we will celebrate the launch of the book at UBC on March 6, 2023.

The original German typescript is in the collection of the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre along with some other items and an English translation created by an excellent team of translators, Anuschka Elkei and Dr. Uma Kumar. The translation is available online at you can hover and read it from the website, you can download it and read it on your computer, or print it.

The memoirs of Anna Helen Aszkanazy will be launched at CENES UBC on March 6, 2023, at 4 p.m. Event is free and open to the public. More details here: