Hanna, passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements
Q: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories? Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?
A: I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout. The following are a number of evident scenarios:
1 At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog. I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home. Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger. There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper. I cried all the way home. As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water. I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged. Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move. Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner. Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!
2 My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street. Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels. My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.
3 I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.
Q: Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan
A: By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland. Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce. All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk. It just seemed like those were stolen goods. Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.
Q: Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?
A: I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.” That did it! That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them! Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk. Now you don’t want to eat meat?! What’s the matter with you? Do you want to die?” Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.
At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact. I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way. I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof. I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again. By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost. I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime. On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.
Q: What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?
A: It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle. I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals. I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.
Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics. I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.
Q: What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?
A: My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path. Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful. As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering. It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.
In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.
Q: You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?
A: Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer. As of today, I’ve written and published:
- vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
- children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
- and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)
I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.
Q: What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?
A: Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:
In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.
Q: Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?
A: I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).
Q: Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?
A: My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.
Q: Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?
A: The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.
Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.
Join the Global Vegan Registry here
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