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We thank you. From pirates, this is the Moth Radio Hour. I'm Sarah Austin Janez from The Moth and I'll be your host this time. The Moth is a place for true stories told live without notes.
Storytellers of all types stand on stage in bars, clubs and theaters, and they tell their stories to audiences all around the country.
We take the best stories from these nights and we share them here with you. This is an all Australian episode of The Moth Radio Hour.
The three tellers are Australian, and the stories were recorded at the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Perth International Arts Festival.
I love Aussie slang and I asked one of our storytellers, Magda Zabinski, a popular character actor down Under to give us a cheat sheet.
Can you tell us some of your very favourite Australian phrases that we should all know the American Americans love?
We're short everything. We appreciate everything. So breakfast is Brickey. Lipstick is maybe. But hang on a sec. Well, it's hot chocolate. Maybe a biscuit is a biggie. And some of the other one, Chardy and Kadee, are yet off. Chatikavanij I have a graph Qadi in McAdie, which is coffee shot time while I'm wearing my cardigan. Rapsody in McAdie.
And you what do you you what do you call flip flops.
Oh. And are wearing that. I'm stronger in those jeans. See how you go.
We'll hear Magda's Urbanski story later this hour. Our first storyteller is Melissa Lucashenko. She told the story in front of a sold out crowd at Melbourne Town Hall as part of the 2013 Melbourne Writers Festival. Melissa is Aboriginal, and the first few sentences of this recording are in Bundjalung language in Aboriginal culture. You must always acknowledge the local traditional people before you speak on their land. In fact, this acknowledgement or a prayer of sorts preceded every public event at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
Here's Melissa live at the North. Bundalong Delvina, Geelong, Olalla Kunlun, Burrum Jorgen. In 2004, a real estate agent drove me, my husband Bill, and our young daughter Grace down a winding country road. The road was near Mullumbimby in northern New South Wales, and on all the side, horses and cattle grazed.
The hills that surrounded this valley were cloaked in lush rainforest, home to king parrots and pademelons. And just on the other side of those hills, we could hear the booming of the great Pacific Ocean on the coast at New Brighton. It was a paradise in miniature. And for all that real estate agent knew, we were just another cashed up couple trying to make the sea change that all of Australia was dreaming of.
But in truth, there was something else going on, because this was Bundjalung Dog and this was Bundjalung country, my ancestral land, land that my grandmothers had been forced off. And all was determined that my daughter was going to grow up on that ancestral land. I wanted her to swim in Bundjalung, creeks and rivers. I wanted her to walk with us barefoot on those long north New South Wales beaches. After almost a decade of following bills, foreign aid, Korea around Australia and the world.
I'd put my foot down, it was time, I said, for our daughter to learn how to be not just Aboriginal, but had to be Bundjalung on our own country. And so after some argument, some debate and discussion, Bill relented. We bought 30 acres in that same valley with an old wooden farmhouse on. We settled in a built connections amongst my grandmother's people. Wrote novels and bred Arabian horses. It was. Sweet life there on that sacred land and Grace thrived, she did swim in Bundjalung waters and she did hear Korumburra on the magpie singing her tulga in the morning as the sun came up.
Bill was less content, though, and as time went on, his trips overseas grew longer and more frequent. A month in the Philippines, three months in Laos, nine months in East Timor, until finally in 2007, a marriage began to crack and then crumble. By the time he came to me and said, I've rented a room in a friend's house and I'm moving out tomorrow. What I mainly felt was relief. Now, divorce hits everybody hard, but it hit 14 year old girls the hardest.
And I sat at my desk one morning in 2007 and I looked out on those green pastures and I looked at those Bundjalung hills. And I knew that they were going to be lost to us again. And I thought, what's going to become of this? What's my life with my daughter going to be like because I knew there was no way in hell I could afford as a single parent to stay on that land? What am I going to do with all these horses, I thought, will I be a bag lady?
And as I was pondering these unhappy questions, the phone rang. It was Bill, I'm on my way to Tweed Heads Hospital, he told me, and you'd better get in a car and head up to. Because Grace has been taken to hospital. After throwing up most of a bottle of Panadol on the floor of a school bus. I put the phone down, reeling and burst into hot to. Life quickly became a blur of psychologists and guilt and deep recrimination between Bill and myself.
Six months later, Bellard relocated to Sydney and Grace and I found ourselves. Living in Logan City, just south of Brisbane, officially one of Australia's poorest urban areas, and to me, this move wasn't terrifying, it was unwelcome. But I knew how to do it. I had the skill set because I'd grown up as one of seven children in a working class Brisbane family. And having spent a lot of my childhood in Logan on new. How not to make eye contact with strangers in the street.
And I knew what life was like in a suburb where the majority of people were ordinary, decent Australians, but a significant minority were prepared to sell their children's Ritalin in order to fund a heroin habit. Like some kind of weirdly reverse Charles Ryder coming upon Brideshead, I'd been there before I knew all about it. I remember the first week we moved in and pulled up to what was going to become our. Corner store, and for someone with a deep depressive illness, Grace could still muster an occasional wisecrack.
As we pulled up to this dingy establishment, she turned to me in the car and said, Mom, she quoted from the BBC comedy A League of Gentlemen said, This is our local shop.
And I turned to her and said, yes, it is our local shop and we're locals, so we should go in and we were just about to do so, but were interrupted by a junkie hurtling out of the doorway to projectile vomit on the concrete footpath not three metres away. We fell about snorting and leaking with laughter.
So it wasn't all bad. I mean, make no mistake, I wanted out of there because I had tasted that good life in Mullumbimby and it tasted mighty sweet. But I didn't expect to live in Logan City. For very long and in fact, in a moment of crazed optimism, I even filled out an online application form for millionaire hotseat. Yes, I thought I'll win back that big dollar and that will send us back to Bundjalung country.
But you have to understand, jokes aside, I was living a life where, as a single parent, I'd given away every extension cord I owned and thrown out every rope. My job every morning was to get up and walk. Mike, a long and frightening journey downstairs to see if Grace had hung herself during the night. So geographic location was not my biggest priority. I drew on a lifelong study of Buddhism and I said to myself, You're poor again, so suck it up.
It is what it is, became my mantra. I dusted off my CV and I started working with women in prison for the first time in 20 years. We took in a homeless girl who contributed a bit of board and I started shopping at those cheap Asian supermarkets. We lived on rice and vegetables, bread, occasionally. Meat, never Tycho's. And I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. Saying. Your job is simply to keep your daughter alive.
And I told myself I could do it. Deep down, I can feel something beginning to unravel because the truth is I wasn't sure I could do it, but at the same time, I couldn't allow myself to believe that. One day, not long before her 15th birthday, Grace asked if she could get a Mohawk haircut, and I was so happy that she'd asked for something underpinned by life, something that implied that she was willing to be around for more than another day or two, that I scraped the money together and I took it to the hairdresser myself.
She came out an hour later with a sculpture on her head in red and green and purple and yellow. And I smiled to see my daughter. I thought maybe she'll make it after all. It was the next day that Grace told me that she was really happy with the haircut. And what was troubling her was the bug inside her head. That was bothering her with its efforts to get out. She scratched at head as she told me this. And I looked at and my heart sank because I knew this was the beginning of a journey into another level of mental illness altogether.
A journey that would take us to an extended stay in the adolescent psychiatric wing of the Logan Hospital. And if I live to be 100. I'll never forget the first day I visited Grace on that ward. I went to those big glass doors that hospitals have and waited to be let in because it was a locked ward. And I went into that antiseptic smell that hospitals have and Grace was nowhere in sight at this point, but another Aboriginal girl was there and ignoring the warning sounds from the staff.
This girl got up and ran at me. And before I had time to move, she had flung her arms around me and she had told the ward, my mother's here. She's come to take me home. And as I put my arms around this unknown girl, I felt like I was teetering on the brink of a precipice, a precipice that grace was in danger of falling over.
And it was then that I decided that whatever it took, I would stop my daughter becoming someone who had to hug strangers in hospital wards because there was no one else to hug. With some pretty tight rope parenting over the next few weeks from me and from Bill, who visited periodically from Sydney and the help of a very good young psychologist in the public health system grows slowly, began to improve marginally. His psychosis ended. And I thought. Maybe we can make it, after all, maybe the unraveling won't become any worse until I got another phone call which left me reeling.
Was I available the next week to go on Millionaire Hot Seat in Melbourne? The following Tuesday, I was sitting opposite Eddie McGuire on national TV, Grace in the audience, foot high, Mohawk and all, I answered five or six questions correctly, took a pass on one and then came back to the hot seat to the final question.
What is the scientific unit for the measurement of light? What is the scientific unit for the measurement of light?
But you say all those months earlier when I filled out the application form, they'd asked for areas of strength in areas of weakness.
And if I had learned anything growing up in Logan, it is you don't telegraph your punches on the strengths or put literature on the weaknesses. I put science and I know science.
There were for multiple choice questions.
I answered Kendler and that night in the hotel room, Grace and I danced and hugged and laughed and sang because on the table in front of us was a cheque signed by Eddie McGuire for 50000 dollars.
Grace picked it up and turned to make her curls bounced in her eyes shone and she said, Mom, you did it. It's your ticket home. Can you believe it? And I looked at her. I looked at that shining face and I thought I would rip that chick up and throw it in the bin if it would guarantee that small. But I didn't have the words to explain that to her. So I just took the check off her and I took a deep breath and I said, Grace, you know what?
It is what it is.
That was Melissa Lucashenko in her early years, Melissa worked as a barmaid, a delivery driver and a karate instructor. She's written five novels, and she recently helped establish a Brisbane based organization called Sisters Inside, which advocates for the rights of women in the criminal justice system. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by Rex.
This is the Moth Radio Hour from PUREX. I'm Sarah Austin. This next story is from Paul Carter. Paul was one of our local storytellers in the first moth event in Australia at the Perth International Arts Festival in 2008. The theme of the night was Strangers in Strange Lands. Here's Paul Carter live at the mark. When I was 16 years old, I got my first Oil-Field job and very quickly. I learned that the drill floor is a dangerous place to work.
I'd had colleagues. Die horribly in front of me. One guy was. Decapitated on a helicopter rotor blades, another guy was disemboweled. On the drill floor, he got his stomach stuck in some pipe, other colleagues cut limbs off. It was basically a Roman Polanski movie. It was terrifying. So I'd become quite numb. I'd work contracts, what we call a work hostile environment work. And I'd worked in Colombia and Nigeria.
I'd worked all over South East Asia and Central Asia.
And I saw firsthand that whatever is happening, the drilling will go on regardless. There could be a war and she had a coup and insurrection, a natural disaster. But the drilling goes on regardless and at any human cost. And I'd gone to a dark place and I only really cared about the well and getting paid. So in this unhealthy mental state. I was on a bit of a self-destructive binge as well, my boss decided to send me to the oil field equivalent of the Betty Ford Clinic, and I found myself in Brunei on the island of Borneo in the South China Sea.
And I was working for a man at the time by the name of Irwin Herzog. And Irwin had a fearsome reputation in the oil business, a well deserved one. He was Yoda. He was the Oracle.
He was the man. And I couldn't have worked for a nicer, nicer chap. He looks like he's got a weaponries temper, but he's actually a complete gentleman. One of the other guys on the crew was a guy by the name of Ambacang, who's a Ebon Indian from over the border in Sarawak, and he's got their head and his tattoos, the bamboo tattoos on his throat. And he had three teenage boys and they came home with a dead monkey one day and it was a female and she was nursing an infant.
So they put the infant in a bamboo birdcage. And he was too young to be away from his mother and he was just wasting away, and Irwin and I visited Amber and when we saw this pathetic little bag of skin, a little chest, pathetic, and he broke her heart immediately.
So we brought him home. And of course, she got a staff house full of red pigs.
They looked at us and said, I break his neck flushed down the toilet, eat it. We said, no, no. We got in the car. We drove two hours to the veterinary clinic, came back with six months worth of baby monkey formula.
And I walked in and I took him out of the cage and I had this little pathetic shaking creature in a big enough to fit in my hand. It looked like it comes straight from Middle Earth. It was kind of and it just broke my heart and I took it upon myself to to raise this monkey and save it.
So he made a sling out of a pillowcase and I had a little bottom and walk around and Joe grew up pretty quickly. I was brushing his teeth. I was in the shower with him and for three years I literally had a monkey on my back.
He wrapped around my throat and I had hair then and we preen.
And it was great. It was great fun.
Now, when male macaques hit monkey puberty, strange things begin to happen. Joe was headbanging in the jungles of Pearl Jam. He started smoking not we didn't give him cigarettes, but monkey see, monkey do.
And some of you have got kids, I'm sure, and pets can buy them. And you've got this little man that goes vertically up the curtain, straight across the rafters. It gets annoyed. They'll be, you know, they'll be screaming everything, in fact, up to and including throwing shit so out of control. So I'm trying to deal with this monkey and give him some manners.
Even though he was smoking and we were terrified he was going to burn the house down, he couldn't actually light up.
But anyone within 30 feet who lit a cigarette, it's gone. And he's perched up somewhere.
It was a horrible and natural spot fires were being put out and we all knew he was going to burn the house down eventually.
The other thing that he did, it was quite annoying was if you needed to urinate, he just just let that fly and the guys got pissed off.
So I said, OK, I'm going to teach him how to pee like a man.
So I took him into the toilet. I got him on the boat and he and it took about a month just to get him to stand and pee, but it would fly about all over the place.
So I had to get him to lean. You know, he's leaning on the system and thereby achieving the right angle. And so he would he'd go it was a clever little guy to mess with the phone.
The stereo he had a brainbox is about the size of a peanut. So he never actually mastered mirrors, which was hilarious because I put them all over the place and he walked past the mirror and got.
He'd immediately back up. I went off and did a long campaign offshore and I got back and the jungle would eat the house if I if people were gone for a long period of time. It was like the dunes in the desert. It would just eat the house. And I got back and everybody was away on other campaigns. And I just wanted some some quiet time. So I walk into the laundry, I tip my offshore bag into the washing machine.
I take my clothes off, I chuck them in the washing machine and I'm knackered.
And I'm just patting down the hallway towards the bathroom, close the bathroom door, sitting on the toilet. And Joe came in the dog door chattering, looking for me, calling out. I'd like to think it was because he loved me, but it was probably cause he wanted a cigarette. So I'm sitting on the bog and this particular toilet door was made of solid teak and it was just four inch thick, solid teak. And it didn't line up properly with the doorjamb.
And there was a three inch gap at the bottom. And I'm sitting there and his face appears.
Oh, hey, buddy. And the hand's doing this, and so I got some new role and I started to stick it under the door.
We were playing a game.
You play games like that, and then he jumps up on the door lock and the key was on the outside.
He turns the key in the lock, fucks off with the key, doesn't it?
So I'm over at the edge of the door and this bathroom's a concrete box.
I'm not telling out of there. I'm I'm stuffed, basically.
So I think fast. So I grab the shower curtain, shove it under the gap and think if I call them back and distract him, offer him a Cuban or something, maybe he'll drop the drop the key. I can pull it through and get out.
And he was gone. I could hear him with the bloody thing banging things with it.
14 hours later. I'm getting ready to cry myself to sleep in the bath.
I finally figured it out and got the got the hooks that the shower curtain was on straight, the man knocked the pins out of the hinges. I couldn't. Starsky and Hutch, the door opened inwards. Finally, I stagger into the hallway and he's sitting there with the key on the lounge, channel surfing.
And sees me and goes out the door, I didn't see him for a week. And then there was a festival in the village, it's called Harry Rhia, and it coincides every 15 years with Chinese New Year, and I was there for that. And the whole village goes completely mental.
Erwin goes over the border and comes back with whatever he can get his hands on, which turned out to be a trunk full of firecrackers and a bottle of tequila. So what are two grown men doing there in the jungle with nothing to do and everyone else is awake? We drank the tequila, shoot off some firecrackers, and our whole place was listing coconuts. And you pick up the coconut, you could push a firecracker into it, light it with a cigarette, hurl it down the end of the line.
There's a huge concussion, coconut with vaporize. Great fun. So we're both staggering around doing shots, hurling these coconuts at each other and bang, bang, bang.
And I got this particularly big one and I let it go down the road. And Joe went straight between my legs going after.
I broke into a sprint, a drunken sprint, I'm trying to close the gap, and I didn't I didn't get there and he jumped. He thought it was a game, you know, he jumped up on the coconut and there's smoke billowing up back.
He flies off into the bush and I scream and I run and I find him. I picked him up and he was completely. Everything was broken. And there was blood coming out of his ears, his mouth, nose, you know. I started CPR, you know, everyone could see what what was unfolding and he said, get in the car I got in the car was just dissolved in tears.
We drove to the local emergency medical center. And most big evil oil multinationals have a facility whereby if someone cuts something off, it doesn't matter how remote it is.
They'll be a surgeons standing by 24 seven, you know, so we roll up to this place and bang on the door and he opens the door and sees two drunk roughnecks and a dead monkey and he tells us where to go.
And everyone got a hold of him, shoved him back inside, closed the door and locked it. And he said, Now you're going to look at this monkey or I'm going to do to you. I went to a farm animal.
And the guy when he looked at me on the right and he went, I guess the stethoscope, and he starts probing and he says, this monkey is dead.
I went, OK. You go back in the car.
We drove back to the the staff house and I got the shovel out of the shed and I found a pretty spot and I dug a hole and I and I buried him with his favorite Pearl Jam CD, pack of cigarettes, the last kind of Heineken and the bathroom key.
And I filled the hole up and I.
Pushed it out my feet. And I was gutted. I didn't speak to anybody for about two months. Pretty much immediately went back to Sydney after three years in the jungle, it was difficult and this monkey had really affected me. And I slowly got back into doing the work and slotted back in into life. The offshore life again, but this time things were different and my eyes were wide open and my brainbox was just a sponge and a big filter and everything went in and went out and down on paper because of that little prick.
He changed everything. And I'm absolutely. Delighted to say that just two months ago, I stood in the hospital just after the doctor had started my daughter's heart and I'm holding it in my hand.
And I thought about Joe again, but for the first time in 10 years, I felt really good about it. Thank you. That was Paul. This story took place nearly 20 years. But Paul says it's as clear and sharp in my mind as Japanese steel, if I think on it too long, it will cut me, he said. After Joe died, I realized life was a more valuable commodity than hydrocarbons.
Paul is now married and a father of two, and he's filled four books with stories from his life on the rigs.
Coming up, our final story. A famous comedic actress confronts her biggest fear inherited from her father, a Polish assassin. The Moth Radio Hour is produced by Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and presented by the Public Radio Exchange Prick's Doug.
I'm Sarah Austin Janez, and you're listening to The Moth Radio Hour. Our last storyteller is Magda Zabinski. Magda is one of Australia's most beloved comics in Australia.
I've played kind of like your Saturday Night Live, so the characters might be grotesque, funny, you know, and a lot of the fun you've gotten from just making yourself look really shocking. And I've never backed away from that at all. You know, I just think, you know, the uglier the funnier generally in that comic sketch comedy. Like I said, I have been famous for a long time in this country and in shows that have been very popular.
And so I enjoy a really great relationship with the Australian public. But it's a sort of a set kind of a relationship. But we all know what the deal is. And and because it wasn't comedy are just. I was in a very strange time there, I really was I was incredibly nervous, I think my diaphragm was sort of strangling my breath, right.
If I couldn't breathe to calm her nerves in the green room before the show at the Melbourne Writers Festival, Magda started a contest where she and the other storytellers spit gum into a bucket.
Across the room, Magda one hears Magda Zabinski laugh at the mark. You may or may not know that for a while I was the very public face of Jenny Craig weight loss, and I lost a lot of weight, which was great. But then I started to put the weight back on, which wasn't so great.
And I got a phone call from the publicist and she said, Oh, darling, I've had a phone call.
And the paparazzi have got some shots of you on Bondi Beach in your bathers.
Now, I'm not an especially vain woman, but there are not too many women I know who would feel completely comfortable with having candid, unflattering pictures of themselves in their wet, clinging bathers splashed across every newsstand in the country. And for just a moment, I felt so vulnerable that I wanted to cry. Because I knew what was in store. I was about to be Kirstie Alley.
I was going to be publicly shamed for my failure to keep the weight off, and that was not a prospect that I relished.
But more than that, there was a deeper and a far more disturbing fear. And I felt as though a cold hand had reached deep into the depths of my soul and was rattling the cage of a long buried fear that I had completely forgotten that I had. And that fear was a fear of the mob. That somehow I would do something unwittingly. And that people would turn into an unreasoning, nasty, irrational mob that would attack me. And it must seem strange to hear me say that because I've been famous in this country for a very long time and I have a great relationship with the public and people are very nice to me.
And in fact, one of the nice things that people say is I often say, Magda, you know, you're so brave with the characters, the comedy characters that you portray in your performance. You're so brave. And I think often when they're saying that, what they're saying is you're so brave because you're prepared to let yourself look unattractive on national television.
And I can't really relate to that, because to be honest, willingness to look unattractive has never, ever entered into my calculus of what it means to be brave.
And I can't there's another I can't really relate to that word brave, and I can't really claim it. And that's because of my name. You know me as Magda Zabinski, but the way my father would have said, my name is Magda Scherbatsky. Because I'm half Polish and that Polish unnice completely determines how I feel about that word brave.
When my father died, Mrs. Pinchuk came up to me at the funeral and she said, Magda Romesh, you must understand only the bravest of the brave were asked to do what your father did in the war.
In 1939, when my father was 15, Hitler invaded Poland. And the world, as my father knew, it ceased to exist. His world of boating and skiing trips to the company and nights at the theater. Was over. Replaced by six years of brutal Nazi occupation. And in 1943, in possibly the darkest hour of that occupation, my father, who was only 19, was recruited to become an assassin in a top secret counterintelligence unit. And the chief job of that of that unit was to protect the high command of the Polish resistance.
And the way that they did that was to assassinate collaborators. And just to make it very clear, my father was on the good side fighting the Nazis. But the way that he was doing that was by killing his own people. And the crimes that these collaborators, Polish collaborators had committed was that they were telling secrets of the resistance to the Germans and some of them were telling the Gestapo where Jewish people were hiding. And it's important to know that Poland, under the Nazi regime, was the only country where the penalty for hiding a Jew was the death sentence.
And in fact, just even knowing of the existence of a Jew and not reporting it would likely get you killed.
And my father's parents, my grandparents had many Jewish people during the war. But of course, I didn't know that when I was a little kid, you know, nor did I know that my father was an assassin, you know, I just thought he was an ordinary dad out there mowing the lawn in history, telling heck.
And if you if you'd known my dad, you wouldn't have picked it either, because he was a very warm, affectionate kind of guy.
But there were hints it was like swimming in a warm river and suddenly you would hit an icy cold patch that would just make your heart stop.
I didn't really know an awful lot about the war as a kid, and what I did know is from TV and movies. And of course, in those movies, it was always about American soldiers, occasionally British, very rarely French.
But I never, ever saw any Polish people.
And so I kind of came to the conclusion that my father must have been fairly peripheral to the war and maybe he wasn't, you know, really there in a big way, in the thick of it until one day when I was about eight or nine and I was sitting with my family in the lounge room of our home in North Croydon.
And we were watching a documentary. And it was about the Holocaust. And this was nothing like the war I'd seen in the movies. And as I saw those images. Of ordinary people, not soldiers, women, children, old people. Little kids pleading for their lives. Gaunt eyes staring from behind barbed wire. Piles of naked bodies being bulldozed into pits. I was beside myself, utterly beside myself, with grief and despair and a kind of helpless rage, but also this like a kind of incomprehension, I couldn't understand what could happen that could make people do that to one another.
And just at that moment, my father looked at the television television screen and he said.
That's the street where we used to live before it was rezoned as part of the Warsaw ghetto. And suddenly I realized that that horror wasn't out there. It was right here in our lounge room, and I looked at my father, I suppose, for kind of guidance and validation and comfort. But he was completely unaffected, completely impassive.
And I felt then that there was a huge gulf that separated us, and as I grew older, I realized that the crucial difference was that he had been right there in the thick of it, and that immediate threat of the Nazis, of death, of torture, of being sent to a concentration camp. Meant that he had had to perform a kind of emergency emotional triage and he had jettisoned absolutely every single feeling that didn't support his survival.
But I hadn't been there and without that urgent imperative to dissociate. I had the luxury of having a normal human response to this horror. And I was terrified. When I looked at my father, I saw his fearlessness. And it was reassuring, but I saw something else that eviscerated me.
I saw his discomfort with my feelings.
And I saw his subtle, almost imperceptible, but unmistakable. Complete contempt for my fear. And in that moment, I vowed I would never feel fear again. And so began a kind of lifelong masterclass in the art of dissociation, as taught to me by my father, the assassin, but of course, you know, I hadn't conquered the fear.
All I'd really done was to drive it into the deepest, darkest corner of my unconscious so that as I grew up and matured, the fear, didn't it remain the fear of a nine year old girl.
Petrified and so now when the publicist was waiting for my response, in an instant, my world had changed.
And what it started out as an innocent swim on Bondi Beach had become a moment of reckoning and now the paparazzi had me in their sights.
And that fear. Came screaming out of my unconscious in my face, and I was reduced to being that nine year old girl again, and I felt as though every irrational fear that I had about human nature, about what humans are capable of, was about to come true. And the publisher said, So, darling, what do you want me to do? And I could feel my world crumbling, I could feel the ground giving way beneath my feet, and just as I was about to fall, something happened and it was something I didn't see coming.
Something completely unexpected. And a voice that I didn't know I had came out of me and I said, fucking do your worst, do your worst paparazzi. You are not going to shake me off the beach. I'm going to go down to Bondi and I'm going to be a fat middle aged lady along with the supermodels and the musclemen. I'm going to wear my wet, clingy bathing. And there's not a frickin thing you can do about it. So they published the photos, but because I'd refused to participate in the shame game, the photos were unflattering.
But the headline said Meg Sports, her new beachbody, it was quite crazy, but but nothing terrible happened in the Australian public were lovely to me.
But this this isn't about me saying, oh, gee, look, you know, I was brave like my father would have wanted me to be.
I'm the second generation. I have the luxury and the very great privilege of being able to feel the normal feelings that my father, Paul Bagga, couldn't feel.
And finally, I was able to forgive myself for feeling fear. Thanks.
That was Magda Zabinski, Magda is the star of the television comedy Catherine King, and she's voiced characters in Babe and Happy Feet. And as she told me, she's the fourth most popular person in Australia.
At one point, Magda, have to be honest and tell you, once I got to Melbourne, we had a conversation and we were talking about which way to take the story and when to rehearse in person. And I thought that there was a chance you might drop out.
Oh, yeah, I wanted to pull the pin. I really freaked me out because, you know, it's extremely sensitive material. I mean, the stuff that my father was doing, the relations between Polish and Jewish people, there's a very large Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor group in Melbourne. And and, you know, you have to be so sensitive about what you say in the best way that you don't want to just blunder in and pull me off like, oh, my God, what am I doing?
You know, I just don't have time to do this properly and responsibly. And I really freaked out. And I actually I you and I pulled the plane. I said I'm out of it. But luckily, you and I had you talked me down off the plane and I was really pleased that I did it, but I was probably the most nervous. I'm normally not nervous when I talk. I'm like most people, so really sorry. But I was nervous during this.
I was really just glad I do this to you.
I just listened to it again before talking to you tonight. And you accomplished so much in such a short time. The details are so precise and it it ends up being a testament, really an ode to your father.
I mean, I teared up at the very end of the story.
Well, I think the whole you know, because I've been writing a book and you can really be expensive to suddenly then trying to boil that down into of something that's the most powerful expression of it was, you know, it's really difficult. It was really difficult for him sort of, you know, in that process of letting my mind run all over the place. And the responsibility are felt to, you know, the Polish non Jewish experience of the Holocaust really hasn't been told.
And I feel a huge responsibility in that regard and to get it right. And so there was all of that. But but I know never I told you this, that I think about it afterwards. I think this is not so completely not what my normal style of communication is. I really am known here for doing comedy and a little bit people know me for being serious, but not in law. And I couldn't read the room. I just didn't know how it was going over at all.
I had no sense of how it had landed. I really didn't. And then when I came out, I was going around the corner and there was a family like a middle aged mother, and the kids were in their 20s that keeps them bowling, just crying. And as I, I said, oh, we just heard you say, you know, we're Jewish and we and the mother said I saw resonated with what you said. And then the daughter said to me, oh, I finally I understand my grandmother.
Is there a special way that you say goodbye? I want to talk about, though, really say that slowly, I have to learn it, how do you say it to go?
OK, we say Dow is up, darling. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, they are. Yeah, well, we don't have a deal. That was Magda Zabinski. And that's it for the Moth Radio Hour. We hope you'll join us next time. Tattered. Your host this hour was Sarah Austin Ginés. Sarah also directed the stories in this show.
The rest of most directorial staff includes Kathryn Burns, Sarah Habermann, Jennifer Higson and Meg Bolls, production support from Genoways Berman and Brandon Hektor. Most stories are true is remembered and affirmed by the storytellers.
Both events are recorded by Argo Studios in New York City, supervised by Paul Wuest.
Our theme music is By The Drift. Other music in this hour from Australian musicians Aramis and Blake Noble. All the music we use in the Moth Radio Hour can be found at the morgue. The Moth is produced for radio by me Jay Allison at Atlantic Public Media in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, with help from Vicki Merrick. This hour was produced with funds from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation committed to building a more just verdant and peaceful world.
The Moth Radio Hour, as presented by the Public Radio Exchange PUREX Dog for more about our podcast. For information on how to pitch your own story and everything else, go to our Web site, The Moth Dog.