“It was like something out of a movie,” says Jane Turner.
Turner is about as far away from Kath and Kim’s Fountain Lakes visiting the most unlikeliest of destinations for Who Do You Think You Are? -the Demilitarised Zone on the border of North Korea.
“It’s like you’re on a different planet looking into the place. They had a whole town set up that was non-existent. It was just a façade to pretend there was something going on there. It’s bizarre,” she says.
“The DMZ is pretty much American-based on the South side with marines and protocol to follow, a lot of briefings on what we were allowed to do. It was very formal and serious. When we got onto the building overlooking the wall you weren’t allow to bend down and tie your shoe. Don’t do any sudden movements, don’t alarm anybody.
“There’s a building that straddles the DMZ and the border and to step across the line is to go into North Korea, so we weren’t allowed in there.
“In a time where you can just Google anything you want to still have a place that is pretty unknown to everyone is extraordinary.”
Jane Turner’s father, who died in 2005, was a fighter pilot in the Korean War but the family knew little about the missions he undertook. Having declined offers to participate in the SBS genealogy series in the past, she felt the time was right to learn more.
“I didn’t really know a lot of detail. I didn’t even know he’d flown this extraordinary number of missions until the funeral when his mate did the eulogy,” she recalls.
“Dad would never talk about that sort of stuff. I knew he’d lost friends while flying but I didn’t know the detail of some of the things he had to do like napalming. That was all a bit of a shocking revelation. I think that was why he didn’t like talking about it.
“He’d mentioned ‘line-bombing’ but I didn’t know what that meant. Later in life he wrote some funny stories about the missions, but always in a light-hearted manner, sending himself up.
“Mum didn’t know a lot about it either, to be honest. Not the detail anyway.”
Turner also heads west to discover one ancestor was one of Western Australia’s pioneering British settlers, with a suitable hint of humour in the outcome.
Filming 10 months ago and armed with her passport, Turner was kept in the dark on where she would travel for the series. With cameras there to capture every reaction, she insists she didn’t turn on the tears just for the sake of it.
“I wasn’t going to pretend. If something is going to move me, then it will move me,” she explains.
“But in the end they were good stories, with the happy ending for my great, great grandfather. They were details that made me glad. But there was sadness around my father’s childhood. So that made me a bit teary, but I didn’t bung anything on.”
So secretive was her involvement that she is yet to share much of her experience with members of her family, who will see it all unfold this week.
“I haven’t really told them anything yet, because I’m waiting for them to see the episode,” she adds.
“I think they’re really looking forward to seeing it. Because it’s their story too.”
Who Do You Think You Are? 7:30pm Tuesday on SBS.