VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
HIT BY DEJA VU
The Calgary Sun
This pre-stamped envelope from Romania did it for me when this dazzling crying sun and smiling blue moon leaped off the page at me.
It was issued to mark the total eclipse of the sun over Romania on Aug. 11, 1999.
Hang on, I thought, I've seen something exactly like that before. I was having an episode of "deja vu."
And then I remembered.
It was in 1999, too. I had travelled out to Vancouver to write a feature about 31 missing women, all street workers engaged in the oldest profession in the world, all of whom had disappeared off the face of the earth without so much as a trace.
Pretty well everyone I met, other working women on the street, their friends, women's shelter workers, all reckon the missing women have been murdered.
About the only people who don't believe a "serial killer" is stalking the strolls in Vancouver's East Hastings district are the police.
But there's a deeply felt conviction among everyone else that someone's murdered the women. And there's a deeply held fear among many out there that the missing women were taken out onto ships in the harbour and when the ships left port, the women went with them.
I wrote a feature about this opinion that "sex slave death ships" were a factor behind these disappearances.
And it was while I was researching this feature, I came across this crying sun image for the first time.
One man who knows more about the missing women than anyone outside the police force is Wayne Leng, who has the closest possible personal ties to the tragedy unfolding out there, since one of his personal friends, Sarah, is among the missing.
One night Sarah was working a busy street corner in the very heart of this dangerous district, left and never returned. Ever.
Wayne's personal attempts to find his friend turned into a crusade, which flourished into a large-scale campaign aimed at finding Sarah, but also finding all the women so their friends and families could have some answers and if necessary, some closure.
At that time, most of Wayne's home had been turned into a campaign office with posters and flyers and photographs of missing women.
But in one special folder, Wayne showed me many of his personal memories of Sarah, including a large portfolio of all her drawings and paintings, sketches and doodlings, an insight into her mind.
She had lived a troubled life, often sad, always struggling.
And there, among her artworks, was this expressive painting (see picture above right).
Her crying sun was a theme depicted in many of her pictures -- in colour, in black-and-white, as a background to other images, and sometimes up front and centre.
Sarah, sadly, has gone and although she's only officially listed as "missing" no one, not even Wayne, expects to ever see her again.
But her poignant images will live forever in her art.
And every now and then, from unknown surprising directions, as with this striking item from Romania, she'll be remembered through her art.
As I always say, there's a surprise around every corner in the world of stamps.
Updated: August 21, 2016