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  1. #1
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    Open Kwong Dore podcast: interview with Ellen Burka

    PJ Kwong and Jeffrey Dore have recently interviewed Ellen Burka, 92 years young. She's on my list of people to interview, but I'm so glad PJ/Jeffrey were able to preserve her voice in this interview. I'm listening now and loving it.

    She's a legend of skating and worth a listen.
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Thanks manleywoman. Coming on the heels of Toller Cranston's reflective interview with PJ ... I wonder if at Toller's and Ellen's respective ages, might it be possible that they both will at least agree to put differences aside and speak with each other perhaps once more in this lifetime before its too late. Who knows if they'll ever meet up again in the hereafter. After all, together, they unwittingly changed the sport of figure skating.

  3. #3

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    Wow. In the first broadcast she talks about growing up with a governess, learning to skate, the German invasion of Amsterdam, life in a concentration camp, the firebombing of Dresden, and the arrival of the Russian soldiers -all very matter-of-fact ("you get used to it, you either get lucky or you die, there is nothing you can do about it").

    She also talks about her great uncle surviving the Titantic and seeing his luggage in an exhibition.

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    ^^ Yeah, I'm listening, and this is a great interview, although mainly because of Ellen Burka. It seems that Dore is a bit intimidated by her, but I totally understand his sense of feeling out of his league. She was almost taunting him playfully when she initially side-stepped questions about the war, and then challenged him, "What do you want to ask me about the war?" And when he mumbled about his total inadequacy regarding the subject, Burka agreed, "What would you know about it!"

    Ellen Burka is something else alright. I'm sure she would have to be in order to have survived existence in a concentration camp.

    Her life story is amazing. Actually, the life stories of so many people in the skating world are absolutely amazing. There should be a whole library section full of books about the history of figure skating, along with biographies of the out-sized personalities that contributed so much to pushing this sport forward, including Ellen Burka, Gus Lussi, Axel Paulsen, Maribel Vinson Owen, Carol Heiss, Dick Button, John Nicks, Jackson Haines, Ronnie Robertson, Brian Wright, Toller Cranston, John Curry, Janet Lynn, Robin Cousins, Ulrich Salchow, John Misha Petkevich, Norbert Schramm, Frank Carroll, Cecilia Colledge, and the list goes on and on.

    Burka's description of her early life in Holland, and her mischievous restlessness that settled down once she started attending an open air school, as well as her parents' lifestyle and Victorian era attitudes toward raising children is fascinating. I too thought the fact of her great uncle surviving the Titanic and how he was done for as a man for having survived, is epic even in its matter-of-fact reality. When he jumped into one of the first lifeboats that were being lowered, there were no restrictions on men getting into the boats and many of the boats were being lowered half empty because in the confusion a lot of people were refusing to get into the lifeboats thinking they were safer staying on board the ship. I love how Burka said that the satchel belonging to her great uncle found with the bottles of perfume fully preserved, belonged to her but she could only stand there and be photographed with it when the Titanic exhibition traveled to Canada.

    I only knew of Burka as the feisty coach of Toller Cranston, and did not even realize how old she is now or that she'd survived the Holocaust, or even consciously realize her relationship to Petra Burka, or indeed her enormous influence on so many Canadian skaters in particular, and on figure skating in general. These are the kinds of stories that need to be told, preserved, celebrated and passed down. Thanks to manleywoman for inspiring PJ and Dore to start their podcast. And thanks to Ellen Burka for sharing her story!

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    Part Two of this interview was released today. Haven't listened yet, but looking forward to it!
    In my spare time, I like to interview figure skating legends.

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    Loved this interview!

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    Those of you who haven't seen it may want to watch this documentary, made by her daughter Astra:

    Skate to Survive - the Ellen Burka Story
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2302Tb65Wqo

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    The interview was wonderful because of the character being interviewed. You have the feeling you're for a real treat and witnessing a piece of history
    I have to say the interviewer is bad...besides his monotonous tone, he's mumbling all the time and certainly he seems way out of place there. I imagine what a good journalist or interviewer could have done with her and leading her to the important stories. I'm sorry to critique him because I didn't know about Ellen Burka and he introduce me to her but it felt really disturbing and I only wondered if maybe PJ would have done it instead

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    manleywoman has said that she hopes to interview her at some point in the future.
    I'm sure that Ms. Burka has more stories to tell/share.

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    She is one tough cookie, I can imagine how she reacted to Toller's rants about the unfairness of it all. It doesn't sound as if her husband survived the war psychologically intact though. She mentions he had a persistent persecution complex and kept them moving, eventually disappearing from their lives totally.

  11. #11

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    I think it would be interesting if Manleywoman could interview Petra Burka about growing up with such driven and unconventional parents, winning Worlds, and having Toller living in the basement.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by robinhood View Post
    The interview was wonderful because of the character being interviewed. You have the feeling you're for a real treat and witnessing a piece of history
    I have to say the interviewer is bad...besides his monotonous tone, he's mumbling all the time and certainly he seems way out of place there. I imagine what a good journalist or interviewer could have done with her and leading her to the important stories. I'm sorry to critique him because I didn't know about Ellen Burka and he introduce me to her but it felt really disturbing and I only wondered if maybe PJ would have done it instead
    OMG, I was trying not to be too critical as well, but if I thought Dore was bad during the first part, it doesn't get any better at all at the beginning of the second part. I understand that Ellen Burka is not an easy person to interview, but FGS as a journalist you've got to be well-researched, well-rehearsed, well-prepared and step up to the plate. Even during the first interview, Burka had to actually prod Dore, "Ask me some questions!" She's not kidding. I mean once again, Burka's is an astounding story and this is such an amazing opportunity she has provided for her story to be shared. I do appreciate the fact that her story has been documented, particularly at this age and stage of her life.

    But seriously, Dore is like a schoolboy or a grandchild hanging on Burka's every word in awe, and then stumbling and stuttering and grunting and muttering in half sentences and incomplete thoughts. Of course Burka's story and her personality are so out-sized that her story practically tells itself and it's understandable to allow her to do most of the talking. But that's what makes Dore's ineptitude all the more grating and jarring, because he's clearly not prepared to interject the right questions at the right time to help guide the interview. He seems to forget or to either be more nervous re the fact that this is a recorded interview to be shared with a listening audience, and not simply a Sunday afternoon sharing tea, cookies and mesmerizing conversation with the incredible Ellen Burka. I was trying to give Dore a bye during the first part, but he's just seemed to get worse, not better.

    The second part of the interview got off to such a poor start again on Dore's part with Burka clearly more into her story and seemingly even more eager and animated than when the interview began. Yet Dore fails to help pace and guide her, and it becomes somewhat difficult to follow and to clearly understand everything she's saying. Hopefully as the second part proceeds, the clarity will improve, but Dore's mindless interjections are so annoying and Burka's accelerated pace (in describing the aftermath of her life in a concentration camp) is somewhat hard to follow. I'll have to come back to it later, because I'd really like to hear the whole interview.

    Two questions: Has Dore ever interviewed anyone else for this podcast??? and, Why oh why didn't PJ do the Burka interview??? Clearly PJ has a stronger personality to match Burka's, and a louder voice, as well as substantial broadcast and interview experience. Another question: Were they worried that PJ's strong personality might grate with Burka's? I don't know, but I think PJ has enough professionalism that she should have been able to at least do a better job than Dore. Disappointing to say the least, but I also feel sorry for Dore, because he certainly seemed chastened and apologetic when they were introducing Part 1 of the interview. Now we know why!
    Last edited by aftershocks; 04-07-2013 at 10:09 AM.

  13. #13

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    The documentary by her daughter Astra (the link in skatesindreams post) covers the same topics and is very good with a lot of pics. It is also not as long.

  14. #14
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    I remember Paul Dore as a charming skater...a real pleasure to watch - he is the son of former Canadian Figure Skating Association General Director, and current ISU Vice President David Dore. I may be wrong, but I think Burka was his coach? How wonderful to see Paul is still involved in the sport.

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