Every year around Christmas time I get all nostalgic as I remember that one special Christmas, and I would like to share this story with you.
Most of you can guess based on my name that I must have come to Canada from elsewhere. I came to Canada when I was just a teenager. My parents decided to leave our country of origin just before the Iron Curtain came down. We left a country that was at a verge of collapse and we feared the unknown.
We were different type of immigrants. Not like today’s immigration with money to buy exotic cars and mega houses. We came with virtually the clothes on our backs and a suitcase each, containing mostly books.
We lived in a Co-op in a Vancouver suburb for the first few years. My dad was working with another Eastern European doing odd construction jobs, just to pay the bills.
The first couple years in Canada were very hard. We didn’t know how anything worked, we didn’t know the language at all and didn’t know where to get help. Prior to coming to Canada we spent 3 years in refugee camps in Germany, where things were decided for us. Neo Nazi attacks on our refugee camps were common and constant fear of the unknown motivated us to leave Europe. We were fortunate that our application through the red cross was accepted and we could come to the land of opportunities- Canada.
As a new immigrant, without any English language, my dad had to resign to taking any job he could get. He ended up working with some shady guys that wouldn’t pay him for months at a time. This one specific guy decided not to pay him for about 3-4 months of salary and fired him just before Christmas. My dad didn’t know where to go to deal with this, whom to call, how to feed his family.
Let me tell you, being a new immigrant as a teenager wasn’t all rosy.
Couple weeks, maybe days before Christmas in 1992 we had literally cancelled Christmas. I don’t know if any of you have ever experienced real hunger, real lack of food for days at a time, but that was our situation just before Christmas. My parents must have felt terrible for not being able to prepare our traditional Christian dinner, not to mention presents.
It was a Saturday morning, the doorbell rang. Since I am the oldest out of the kids, it was my job to go open the door. I opened the door and to my amazement saw several large boxes full of food!!! This was truly a Christmas miracle! There was nobody there, no note, just lots of food. Most people won’t relate to this story, but every single time I share this story my eyes swell up with tears. This incident alone made a long term impact on who I am as a person. To this day we still don’t know who left all these boxes in front of our place. This was a Christmas miracle that I associated with the spirit of Canada.
I love Canada because of the people here; Because of these random acts of kindness! The compassion, the deliberate and conscious acceptance of our differences. Our family shares this story every Christmas dinner we have this time of the year, and these are the stories we need to share with our communities.
As a new immigrant I have experienced first hand the kindness from regular people, from my teachers, neighbours and everyone I met. It made me more sensitive to certain aspects of our society.
I love Canada because it allows people to be who they are. There’s no discrimination against your beliefs, your religion, or your ethnicity, everyone can travel as they please, and these rights are guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is the main reason why our family and many other immigrant families have chosen to come to this great country!
Immigrants feel safe here.
As a proud Canadian my heart breaks when I see how politicians have divided our country recently. Multicultural, and multi faceted, with varying degrees of opinions is a definition of our beloved Canada.
Yes, this country was born on injustice towards first nations and it’s important to learn from history and never to repeat it. Our laws are here to protect us and unite us as people with common values.
I’m not writing any of this to start any debates towards one side or the other. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, or an anti-vaxxer and I don’t feel I need to defend my views… because I am Canadian.
All I’m doing is using critical thinking and stating the obvious, that our country has drastically changed over the last couple years and I find it disturbing that communities across the country are very divided. Even some of our families are divided as well, including my own family.
This Christmas my wish for Canada and my immediate community- Quadra Island is to come together, in kindness, compassion and mutual respect. The Canada I know, doesn’t discriminate against anybody.
This country is the best country in the world and we should stand on guard for thee. Merry Christmas!
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