Happy Canada Day Everyone – And Thanks, Mom and Dad

When my dad was 12, he and his family came across the ocean from Holland to make a new life in Canada. My grandfather had arranged for his family (wife and 5 children) to help work a farm. They would live on the farm and make their living there.

When they arrived at the port in Montreal, there was a telegram waiting for them. It was from the farmer in Alberta who had hired them. Their work was no longer needed. They were on their own.

Devastated, they eventually found their way to a community near London, Ontario, where other Dutch immigrants were settling. A year after they settled, my grandfather died of lung cancer. The family was devastated. (Yes, I just used that word twice.) My father was the only boy in the family. He lost his dad at a critical time in his life.

After a few years of tremendous upheaval, grief, instability and unbelievable difficulty, the family eventually found their way and carved out a new life.

When my mom was 3, her father was taken prisoner by the Russian army. She was living in a part of Poland that was being taken over by the Russians, and they declared my grandfather a political prisoner. He was later released to fight in the Second World War, and eventually found his way to Canada. But my mother grew up fatherless in Russia.

Then in the late 1950s, the Russian government allowed people living in Russia who were of Polish descent to move back to Poland, which is what my mother did with her mom and her brother and sister and their families. They stayed in Poland for a year, and then came to Canada and were reunited with their father, in London, Ontario. My mom was 21.

I remember being 13, feeling out of place in my own skin, still such a kid and needing my dad. I can’t imagine being 13, in a foreign country, without my father.

I remember being 21. And how hard it was to find my way. To be confident. To feel like I belonged somewhere. To keep up with the ever-changing trends and the styles. I can’t imagine being 21, landing on foreign soil, not speaking the language, and not knowing what it took to fit in with the culture.

But my parents did it. And because they did it, and survived, and met each other at a dance at the Polish Hall in London, I am here. And so are my sister and brothers.

Because of them, I got to grow up in Canada. This big, beautiful, remarkable, kind, rugged, gentle, welcoming, vast, magnificent, FREE country. I’m so lucky.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. For what you gave me, and for what I’m able to give my kids.

Happy Canada Day, everyone.