NEW DOCUMENTARY ABOUT ANNA KALJAS
From Estonian refugee to the Order of Canada
Anna Kaljas learned harsh lessons in loss and displacement when her family fled Estonia during the
Second World War. But four terrifying years as a refugee also taught her about resilience, about
compassion, and about how one person can make a difference.
Quirky, out-spoken, caring and deeply committed to social justice, Kaljas (1912-2010) funnelled her
life lessons into a full-fledged mission after she arrived in Kitchener, Ont., in the 1950s. Over several
decades, she sheltered and befriended the homeless and disenfranchised, earning a prestigious
Order of Canada in 1983.
A sweeping new documentary, Anna Kaljas: The Untold Story, which premieres Sept. 21 at the
Princess Twin Cinema in Waterloo, captures her life in vivid detail.
About the film: The documentary, by Kitchener filmmaker Dwight Storring, weaves together
historic perspective from the Second World War, videos of Kaljas, dramatic readings from her 2006
memoir, and a host of compelling interviews with family and friends, including a former student in
Estonia. It traces her life story, and it explores her legacy in today’s housing crisis.
The backstory: Kaljas’ arrival in Kitchener in 1951 could have meant a much-deserved shot at
prosperity for herself and her young son. But inspired by a great-aunt, Kaljas believed in making
change happen. It was true when she was a trusted tutor as a teenager in Estonia; it was true when
she was a courageous leader and teacher during the brutal war years.
And it was true in Kitchener when she became a fierce advocate for the marginalized, pouring her
earnings from her job as a nurse’s aide into buying a house that could double as a shelter. Over
time, she added four others, housing up to 60 people at a time.
Her radical outreach distressed bureaucrats and unnerved some locals in the early days, especially
when word spread that she was also housing large snakes. But her passion and selflessness won
the heart of the community – and inspired her friends and family.
Oh, and about those snakes: For a time, she did indeed shelter some large snakes, including an
anaconda. Her friends and family remember them well. But the creatures were true to Anna’s
mission – they needed a temporary home.
About the filmmaker: Dwight Storring has over 25 years’ experience in journalism and filmmaking.
His feature-length documentary Finding John Lingwood was released in 2018. Dog’s Best Friend, a
series of video shorts, ran on Bell Media’s Fibe 1 TV in 2020. Past projects include fundraising
videos for the House of Friendship and Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region.
Contact Dwight Storring: firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-496-4462.
Anna Kaljas: The Untold Story, by Kitchener filmmaker Dwight Storring, premieres Thursday, Sept.
21, at the Princess Twin Cinema, 46 King St. N., Waterloo. On opening night, $10 of every ticket
sold goes to the grassroots housing initiative A Better Tent City. Tickets: princesscinemas.com