Pauline Dakin spent her childhood on the run — and shares the unbelievable story in her new memoir

The journalist and author writes about a childhood spent fleeing from the Mob in Run, Hide, Repeat.
Former CBC journalist Pauline Dakin tells a gripping story of a childhood spent on the run with incredible twists in her memoir, Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood. (Viking)
Listen17:07

It's true that each of us has our own story to tell, but that of Pauline Dakin's young life goes beyond imagining. Dakin spent much of her childhood on the run, moving cities suddenly and telling no one, not even family or friends.

Then one night in February 1988, at 23 years old, she met with her mother at a highway gas station in Sussex, N.B., who explained why she had repeatedly uprooted her family. They were running from the Mob. That's just the beginning of Dakin's story. She's written it all in a book called Run, Hide, Repeat: A Memoir of A Fugitive Childhood.

Life-changing encounter

"She told me a series of stories about different times that we'd had to run away because there were attempts to assassinate us, kidnap us to, poison us, and that we had escaped death multiple times. She'd say, 'Do you remember the time that such and such happened?' And I clearly remembered those times, certain incidents that were so strange at the time. Now, I was getting the backstory. There were all these puzzle pieces that had always been the subject of such mystery in our lives that suddenly began to fall into a narrative. It was a crazy narrative, but at least it was an answer for why had we behaved in such extreme ways all my life."

Coming to terms with reality

"I found it very hard to go back to my life. At the time, I was a young reporter working at a newspaper and I was engaged, living with my boyfriend. I got home from this weekend, where all of this had been revealed to me and I was terrified. I was having this internal debate, 'Is it real? It can't be real. But what if it is real?' I would go outside and be looking over my shoulder. I started thinking, 'If somebody did break into my house, how could I get out of here? Could I break the window in my bedroom?' I was having crazy thoughts and began to feel very isolated because I was told I couldn't tell anybody this, that it would put their lives at risk and other lives at risk.' I didn't tell my boyfriend, I didn't tell my friends. I couldn't talk to anybody about this, so I began to feel as though my real life just didn't seem very relevant anymore."

A big reveal

"I decided to set up a sting and see what the response would be. I called my mom and said my house has been broken into. She said, 'I will ask our friend and I'll call you back.' She talked that way, in case the lines were bugged and she didn't want anybody to know he's there. It was an excruciating wait for that phone to ring. I knew that one way or another I was going to get the answer that determined what our life was based on. She called back and said, 'Yes, they've picked up some people outside your house. They'd been following you. Get in your car and come here now.' I knew in that moment that the whole thing was false because there hadn't been a break-in.

"It was the rug truly being pulled out from underneath. As much as I'd had suspicions, it was a horrifying thing to acknowledge that everything we'd built our lives on was a lie. The people and relationships that we'd left behind again and again were lost for no good reason. It was a very hard thing to get your head around."

On reconciling

"It's an ironic thing. I believe that even though my mother placed us in chaotic situations and delivered a certain amount of trauma, there was never a point in time that my brother and I didn't know that our mother loved us. There was never a time that we didn't feel supported by her. That security of love and care is what gives you the resilience to deal with hard things in your life. I understand it's a big leap to say that the person who did this to you actually saved you from the worst effects of it, but that is what I believe."

Pauline Dakin's comments have been edited and condensed.