I can hardly recall ever having been happier about the arrival of spring than this year. I only remember the end of my first winter in Canada, which was longer than the one this year. It was the year 1968 and we had just arrived by boat, the Alexander Pushkin. We landed in Quebec on April 27 after a stormy Atlantic crossing that lasted 10 days, because of a stop-over in England, where more passengers came aboard after we had left Bremerhaven. I will never forget the long trip along the St. Lawrence River, the endless snowbound shores without any house in sight and no green anywhere, just endless spaces of white and grey and white.
I was close to tears and asked the best of all husbands if we had enough money to return home. I definitely did not want to live in such a desolate landscape. Toronto was not much better at the end of April. It was like it is now at the beginning of the month. Wet and cold, but at least the snow had left already, but the feeling of everything grey permeated my emotional life, especially in the inner city, where even the grass had not greened yet at Queens Park.
Those first two nights in the abominable filthy and overrun with cockroaches Ford Hotel (corner of Bay and Dundas), where we were sent by the immigration department until Monday, when someone would welcome us, those first 2 days and nights are unforgettably etched into my mind. It took me a long time to overcome these images and opinions that I had formed. I did not like this city of Toronto for the first 4 years one bit. I would have gone home if I would not have been sure that I would hear the words: I told you so!
Does this sound ungrateful? Hardly, if you see it in the right context. We did not come from a battered and bruised country, a war torn Germany. We arrived from a modern and reborn Germany. Everything was up to the newest standards in the west. Phoenix had risen, Germany was getting fat again. The story of "Wir Wunderkinder" and our nation’s quick recovery had indeed astounded the world.
In the meantime I love this country dearly, except for the weather, especially the winter weather. I am afraid I never took up a winter sport. I always was a beach baby, born near the Baltic Sea. Give me sand sun and the sea, or a lake and I am happy.
Why am I telling you all this seemingly unrelated information? April, especially this April is special. Not only is my birthday in April, and our publication was launched in April, but this year we are having an anniversary to celebrate: We are 40 years in Canada on April 27.
In these 40 years I have at first struggled to stay away from the German community but got roped in eventually and now I would not want to miss our group, though dwindling in members it is. And that is precisely the reason why I am asking you to participate more. I would like you to share some of your first impressions of this country after your arrival. Why did you come? What went through your mind when you arrived? How did you adjust? What was the most important thing about these early days in Canada that you remember most vividly, good or bad.
If you do not know how to write it down call me and I will help you formulate it. I really want to know. We should share our stories so that we will not be forgotten in the days to come. I would like to publish them for others to read. We do not have to name you if you do not wish to be mentioned that way.
This series we would like to start was inspired by Danuta Grigaitis, who writes such wonderful poetry. If you live over in the Kitchener/Waterloo area she might be able help you with your story if you require assistance.
I know everybody has a story. Let us tell some of them to the world! Hoping to hear from many of you …
Until next time