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Hollywood actress Rita Wilson rediscovered her Balkan roots

02 April 2012 / 13:04:13  GRReporter
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The troubled Balkans, where political interests, religious differences and social reversals dominated during the Second World War, are the scene of the life of Hassan Ibrahimoff – the father of Hollywood actress and producer Rita Wilson, also known as Tom Hanks’ wife.

Two years after her father’s death, she wants to discover the background of his life in America and to find out what kind of a person he was, what his life was like and what made him leave his homeland and settle in the United States. The story unfolded not only shows that she is closely related with Greece and Bulgaria, but is also an example of the fate of tens of thousands of people who fell under the iron hand of the totalitarian regime in the 1940s and 1950s and experienced imprisonment, torture and forced labour camps.

The story of Hassan Ibrahimoff’s, Rita'f father before changing his name to Alan Wilson in the 1960s, was a mystery to his family. The show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" reveals the story of Hassan, who was born in the small village of Oreo near  the Greek town of Xanthi in 1920. The NBC television show has set out to trace the tracks he has left in order to reveal his life before the age of 30. The evidence suggests that he struggled with the vicissitudes of the Balkans in the era of pre- and post-war period to start a new life in the United States in 1949.

Rita Wilson admits at the beginning of the show that she knows very little about her father as a boy and young man. She heard he had spent several years working in a labour camp in Bulgaria, but as she says herself, she does not know what that means and cannot imagine the conditions under which such camps exist.

Her research started from the village of Oreo, where with the help of an interpreter, she found the house of his father and his cousins, who are Greek Muslims. They said that when Hassan was approximately 10 years old, the family moved to the town of Smolyan in Bulgaria. There, Rita met with a historian, who showed her documents declaring her father "fit" to serve in the Bulgarian army in 1941, when the army had occupied Xanthi. An incident of theft of five leva and water bottles lead to a conviction and imprisonment for Hassan, who was released about two years later.

He left the town of Smolyan and moved to the city of Plovdiv, where he married a young woman called Alicia. Two months later, their son was born. They had no luck and three days after the birth of their son called Emil, the mother died. The same happened to the child three months later. The American Wilson family never knew about these events. The news that her father had a family in Bulgaria with such a tragic fate filled Rita with emotions so that she could not restrain her tears.

After Hassan lost everything he loved, he left the city of Plovdiv and went to the city of Sofia. There, the special services began following him because they found out he wanted to leave communist Bulgaria. He tried to escape through the Turkish border, but was captured and sent to a labour camp for political prisoners. About two years later, Hassan managed to flee and never returned to Bulgaria.

"After this journey I feel I know my father better," stated Rita at the end of the film. She is in the small apartment of her uncle in the town of Smolyan. Heis giving her the only letter from her father after he had left for America. In it, he described his new life and said that he had found his paradise on earth.


Tags: Media newsRita WilsonHassan IbrahimoffTom Hanks
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