MURRAY, Anna ( SINGER, Annette – also called Janina)
Born July 13, 1932, in Poland.
Died February 4, 2012 in Surrey, British Columbia.
A LIFE OF DRAMA, HARDSHIP, TRAGEDY, COURAGE AND JOY
Anna was born into a Jewish professional family in Poland. In the 1930s, she lived in a six-room Warsaw apartment with her mother Bronislawa (Bronka), her father Julian (an architect), Marisha (a sister born in 1935), plus a maid, a governess and a chauffeur.
The War came and everything changed. The family, plus the maid and a cousin fled eastward into what is now Belarus. The Russians came; they were shipped to Siberia in cattle cars and by boat to a work camp in the Urals. They moved to Uzbekistan, where her father was arrested. He later died in Archangels Prison. Marisha died in Uzbekistan of malnutrition and malaria.
After the War, Anna and Bronka were returned to Poland, again in cattle cars. Anti- Semitism was alive and well in Poland, and young Anna flirted with socialism, Communism and Zionism in the late 1940s. There are gaps in the story, but by 1949, Anna and Bronka were in Montreal working at menial jobs while learning two new languages. Anna's only child, Julian, was born in Montreal in 1954.
Montreal of the l950s and 60s was 'Anna's time', and she helped to define Montreal of those years. A sometimes-single mother, she was much involved in the music and literary scene. She and her folk singer husband, Jim Murray, worked and partied with Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Josh White, Oscar Brand, Allan Mills, Wade Hemsworth (The Little Black Fly) and Ed McCurdy. The Murrays were six-decade friends of Eurithe and Al Purdy, Order of Canada, and Canada's 'unofficial poet laureate'. Al Purdy's 'Poems for all the Annettes' 1962, reflected Anna at age 30 in Montreal.
Anna loved to regale friends with stories from her incredible life. She was proud of having gone skinny- dipping with Pierre Trudeau before he became a national figure. She recalled a young Leonard Cohen asking her how she liked his new song, 'Susanne'. She told him it was dreck (rubbish). Another: she told a young Bob Dylan (Zimmerman, then) after hearing him sing to go back to college, and Dylan said something typically odd like 'If I don't, you'll eat my hat'. Anna spoke five languages, and was colourfully direct in expressing her opinion in all of them.
It was no secret that Anna and Jim had a varied but enduring relationship. In 1968, Julian, a gifted musician, was sent to live with friends in Calgary while Anna looked for Jim who was 'travelling'. They renewed their relationship and all three moved to the Vancouver area. Tragically, Julian was killed in a freak car accident in 1972 at the age of 19: Anna's only child and Bronka's only grandchild.
After Julian died, Anna and Jim travelled, hiked, performed, moved and taught for about 20 years. They lived variously in Arizona, New Mexico and the Vancouver area. By l996 when Anna was 64, they were living in New Westminster, BC. Bronka died in Vancouver at age 98 in May 2003, and Jim died of cancer in October of the same year at age 77. Anna spent the last decade of her life as the only surviving member of her family.
Anna attracted an astonishing variety of people because she had a genuine interest, enthusiasm and love of living (she liked to be called 'perfervid'). She wrote little of her incredible story, but in the year before she died, she dictated memoirs up to 1947. A group of friends is trying to fill in the blanks, and as a tribute to Anna, anyone with stories is invited to submit them to Dave at email@example.com and/or to go to www.friendsofanna.org. At Anna's request, there is to be no formal service.
Saturday February 25, 2012
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