Comedian Ruby Wax explores the secrets her mother and father kept from her in Who Do You Think You Are? on Wednesday night
Comedian Ruby Wax finds out more about her parents’ secret past and whether the depression that has dogged her runs in the family in Wednesday night’s episode of the BBC1 genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are?
Ruby’s late Jewish parents – mum Berta and dad Edmund – fled from Nazi oppression just before World War Two and resettled in America, but they never spoke about their past. An only child, Ruby felt she grew up in an unhappy house.
“Everything was strange about my parents,” admitted Ruby, 64. “Whether they were trying to save me the stress of what happened to them, I don’t know, but by keeping it a secret they made me more stressed than I ever would have been.”
In the programme, Ruby learns that her father managed a risky escape from Europe on a boat to America.
“I felt that explained me to myself,” said Ruby. “I understand the almost manic drive that I have. The only thing is, I wish my father hadn’t pushed so much against everybody.”
Mum Berta and dad Edmund kept secrets from Ruby about their past
Ruby also finds letters from relatives whom her mother was trying to help escape during the war.
“She didn’t succeed and that must have broken her,” says Ruby. “It’s a good thing I’m on antidepressants, because what happened was heartbreaking.”
Ruby has written three books on her struggles with mental health issues and, in the programme, she also learns that her maternal great aunt and her mother had both suffered mental illness.
“You think: ‘How interesting that something must get into your skin and pass some [genetic] information on.’ It made my mother make sense,” says Ruby. “My mother would scream at me in the street, and only a crazy person does that. I thought there would be madness or an actress in my family, or both. I got one.”
Ruby admitted that making the documentary did help her forgive her parents.
“I already sort of did forgive them, but now I kind of understand that it wasn’t their fault,” said Ruby. “If they had just told me something, we could have had a truce. But we can’t go back now.”
Ruby’s Who Do You Think You Are? can be seen on Wednesday October 4 at 8pm on BBC1.