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1-on-1 with Andrew Evans of ‘Unbordered’

I took to zoom for a quick get-to-know you talk with Andrew Evans, our newest member of the Story Hangar family and producer of the podcast ‘Unbordered’.

You can watch the video embedded below, or read the transcript. But make sure you subscribe and listen to ‘Unbordered’ — it’s a great show!

BOB HARKINS: As we get going here in 2021, we’re looking to add more great podcasts to the network. And to start things off I’m just thrilled to introduce our newest member, Andrew Evans. Andrew produces a podcast called “Unbordered”, a fascinating story in which he tries to track down the origins of his grandfather.

I’m going to let him tell you more about it. Welcome Andrew.

ANDREW EVANS: Well thank you. Thank you very much for having me, Bob.

BH: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, and what the podcast is about?

AE: OK well I’m. I live in North London with my wife and two cats and I’m, in normal times when I’m a video editor and a musician/producer. The podcast, the impetus for the podcast is way back in 2016 when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. It’d been an incredibly divided thing. I volunteered in fact for the remain side. I was, I felt European, I wanted to stay a part of the European Union, and I think it was pretty much a surprise, even people who had campaigned for leave, I think it was a surprise to them that leave won.

It was not the expected result. And I felt like a lot of people — I think I say in the podcast like a lot of people in our kind of libra-politan London bubble — I was sort of bereft almost, I felt like a piece of my identity had been taken away from me. And very quickly my thoughts turned to my mother’s father, who is a man that I never met but I knew had been born in Europe. I think a lot of people started looking for ways that they could try and keep their passport one way or another, similarly I think when a lot of “how-can-I-become Canadian”, a lot of people started Googling that when Trump was elected was elected, that kind of thing. A very similar thing happened here. I think all sorts of people were looking for things.

He was someone who I knew was born in Europe but he was a man who for various reasons who was shrouded in mystery, someone we weren’t really allowed to talk about because of something he’d done in later life. I mean it was a sensitive topic around my Nan. But I thought time had passed now and this was something worth investigating, so that’s what started what became the podcast was me trying to find out, OK where was he born? And investigating if that qualified me for a passport. But actually what I found ultimately was much, much more and that’s how I was able to make it into a podcast.

BH: Yes. A lot more. You found a lot more along the way. On the surface, it’s a story, your grandfather escaping the Nazis and eventually later fighting against the Nazis, which by itself is an amazing story. But as listeners will find out it gets quite a bit more complex than that. And without giving too much away, what kind of impact did telling this story have on you personally?

AE: I suppose. I mean I guess ultimately it’s a story about identity in various forms and how that identity is not necessarily fixed. It can shift. My grandfather was a complicated man I think it’s fair to say. Certainly morally ambiguous at times. He’s someone, it’s very tempting and, it’s very tempting to kind of lionize grandparents. They’re one step removed from the generation. Particularly this is someone I never met so he, I talk of him in terms of more of a rumor than an actual relative. And sometimes he did things that are undoubtedly heroic, brave, things like that. And he also did things that which were incredibly unpleasant and selfish. And trying to marry those two things and basically confronting why I’m so fascinated by him and drawn to him and what that says about me personally, was the kind of, not a dilemma so much but that’s something that I sort of processed as I was telling the story.

BH: Yes these things are messy and that’s what makes the storytelling good, too, in my opinion. Now it’s also undoubtedly on the surface this is a very heavy topic, a very serious topic. And you happen to use a lot of humor. Not a lot but you have a fair amount of humor you put in there. And one in particular I think, your grandfather’s name was Adolph, which is kind of, it’s problematic, let’s just say that. But there were times where he did, he changed his last name, but did not change his first name, and there’s a moment in there where you actually say ‘You do you, Adolph,’ Which was hilarious. Why the choice to use humor kind of interspersed throughout this story?

AE: Humor is my go-to way of processing a lot of things just in my everyday life. So it’s something that comes quite easily to me. I’m quite careful I hope not to use humor in direct reference to … this is someone, my grandfather is someone who survived The Holocaust, the rest of his family did not survive The Holocaust. I’m quite careful I think not to use humor in any way to reference those particular instances or anything like that. But I do think it’s a way of processing things and it’s a way of telling the story and it’s a way of making the story more accessible in some respect. I think it’s a part of history which is almost literally incomprehensible and maybe is something that maybe shouldn’t be able to be understood in any real sense. And I think humor is something that is more relatable and is something that gives you a way in sometimes. And I think it’s something about him. He’s not a sort of heroic, traditionally heroic character. And I think it’s fair to treat him with a little irreverence sometimes. I think that suits him.

BH: And to be fair we should point out that he went by Addie. He did not go by Adolph.

AE: He did not but he, this is someone who, if you listen to the podcast you’ll know he obviously, he constantly changed his identity in many respects to suit what needed to be, but at no point did he consider getting rid of the name Adolph, which, yeah.

BH: You do you.

AE: Exactly, you do you. But he was affectionately known as Addie by sort of friends and family. So, yeah.

BH: So, you’re a musician, and a video editor. And I’m wondering how those skills translate to making a podcast of this type. … You make all the music on the show right?

AE: Yeah a very direct way is I wrote all the music for it. I tried to write it. I didn’t record all of the podcast and then score it in that sense. I tried to produce as you do a kind of bank of stock music basically. And I tried to have different pieces of music that could cover different themes. So in a very literal sense my music skills went straight into the podcast. It was actually one of the first things I knew — I’d never made a podcast before but I’d made lots of music before. So it was one of the things I knew I can definitely do this bit, I can definitely make the music. And video editor is very often what you do as a video editor is you’re presented with an abundance of material and your job is to try and make sense of that material. Sometimes it’s to make it into a linear thing sometimes it isn’t, but generally what I’ve got good at as an editor is to find the spine of the thing, and you find the thing which is the spine and then everything else you can put around it. So I think that’s the thing that I was instantly able to sort of bring into making it into a podcast. It was hopefully something that made sense, something that had a beginning, middle and end, but took you in different directions as well.

BH: I like that. I also like, I saw actually today, this is Saturday, you talked about walking, and walking kind of helps you like it’s your first draft. I kind of do the same thing, it helps, I call it marinate. The first draft marinates.

AE: I can’t remember who said this, it’s a writerly piece of advice. But the, when you’re sort of confronted with the tyranny of the blank page and things, a good piece of advice is ‘you’re already written the first draft in your head. What you’re doing now is the second draft.’ And yeah, at a point at which I started walking to work — I’m lucky enough to live near enough by, it’s about 4 1/2 miles. It’s a good distance to walk — and yeah that’s where the script for what became the podcast as I was walking to and from work is when, that’s when it emerged. That’s when ‘Unbordered’ the title suddenly became the format idea where all the episodes would have ‘un’ something as a format. All of these things if you just sort of walk with your thoughts these things will emerge.

BH: So tell us what’s coming next. What do you have planned for ‘Unbordered’?

AE: There’s two potential things. One is, you listen to the podcast you’ll know he, my grandfather was the only survivor in the family, and the specific details of their capture are not known. It’s sort of all rumors and all hand-me-down bits of information. But out of nowhere, there’s a book that is published, one chapter of which, a book which so far as I can tell I only have it in Dutch or German, there’s not English translation as far as I can tell. But so far as I can tell it tells the story of a man who was helping Jewish people cross borders and also tells the story of a man who was trying to stop that happening, a Nazi who was trying to stop that happening. A chapter of which gives, so far as I can tell, a really detailed account of my family — my great-grandfather, my great-grandmother, their children and another person not related — being smuggled across the border, being captured and there’s even a transcript of the interrogation of my great-grandfather. I feel like as soon as I can get that translated — I’m literally the last couple of days or so I’ve contacted the authors of the book. They’re academics working out of a university. I’m hoping to talk to them more about it. And that, I feel like that, I have to make some kind of standalone episode that deals with that, because even within that, because all I’ve got at the moment is kind of a Google translate version of it. But even within that you get a real sense of the character of my great-grandfather and you can already tell how that fed into how my grandfather behaved as well, sort of spinning a story to account for your situation and things like that are all sort of evident in this interrogation transcript.

So that’s something I would definitely like to make an episode that continues or sort of fills in the gaps of the ‘Unbordered’ story so far. The other thing I’d be really interested in doing is using the format that I’ve kind of established with ‘Unbordered’ and using that to tell other peoples’ stories. So it could be in the literal sense of someone who was stripped of their nationality like my grandfather was — he literally became unbordered, where he was born didn’t exist anymore essentially, he had no nationality — but it could also be stretched to include people who just something happened which fundamentally changed who they were. You found something out about a relative, like wow, imagine you found out they were a spy, something that just fundamentally changed everything you thought you knew about this person as a grandparent possibly. And that’s something I’d be really interested in doing. Having established a kind of grammar and a format with telling my own story I’d be really interested in other people then using that to tell theirs.

BH: That’s be great. And are you seeking submissions?

AE: Absolutely. If anyone thinks they’ve got that kind of story I’d be really interested in talking to them. I make a point of saying that I’m not a geneologist, I’m not a journalist, I’m not any of the things that would go away and do this sort of research. I’ve somehow managed to do it for my own story. So it would often be people who have done a lot of the research themselves in the family tree sense, but I would be someone who would hopefully shape that into a kind of compelling narrative.

BH: So where should people go to submit ideas for you?

AE: They can email me — If they go to the website, which is, they can find all sorts of information there. So yeah if they’ve got any stories they want to submit, or even if they just want to comment or talk about the podcast, that’d be great. I’d love to hear from them.

BH: Excellent. And in the meantime, listen to ‘Unbordered’. The podcast is available in all the usual places you listen to podcasts. More information at as you just said, including documents that you unearthered in your research for your grandfather. And you can see more about Andrew and his podcast at

AE: I should say I’ve been really pleased to be sort of welcomed into the sort of Story Hangar network. I’ve listened to the other shows on it and they’re all really great. I really like what you’re doing with it.

BH: Thanks Andrew. We’re honored to have you. Take care.

AE: Likewise.

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