Country of Origin:
Citizenship, Immigration, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity, Adjusting to Life in Canada
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I was born in Namur, Belgium on 27 April 1946. My family emigrated to Canada in June 1956 in search of a better life. On arrival here, I spoke Polish, French and Flemish. I began learning English when I started school 3 months later.
Most of my life was spent in the Toronto area, where I graduated from Central Technical School in Applied Electronics in 1966. I became a Canadian Citizen (my Canadian Centennial project) in June 1967. While in high school, I learned to play trumpet and participated in various school bands, as well as the school's Army Cadet Corps.
In my teen years, I was involved in Toronto's Polish community by going to Polish school, sang in their church choir and was a member of a folk dance group.
At 16, I joined the Canadian Army Reserve and served there for 26 years. In 1989, I transferred to the Canadian Army Regular Force as a radio operator in Kingston and Ottawa. While in Kingston, I participated in 2 United Nations peacekeeping missions (Golan Heights - Israel/Syria and Bosnia/Croatia). I retired from the Canadian Forces in 2002 after a total of 40 years' service and settled in Kingston, Ontario.
At the moment, my retirement years are spent working on a couple websites, speaking to schools as a military veteran, mounting military medals and maintaining my vegetable garden.
A more detailed view of my bio can be seen through my website - http://www.peacekeeper.ca/pkbio .
My parents left Poland when Belgium opened its doors to Polish refugees (at the end of World War II) as a token of appreciation of Polish troops helping allied forces liberate it. My father told me that he planned to take the family back to Poland once things settled down there, but communism expanded in Eastern Europe so he decided to wait a bit longer.
In the 10 years that we lived in Belgium, we moved 7 times as my father was looking for better employment. We were fortunate that he was a "jack-of-all-trades" and able to adapt to any job given to him. We ended up in Brussels for the last 2 years before coming to Canada.
My mother found out she had a cousin in Toronto and, through many letters, she offered to sponsor us coming to Canada. My parents started selling everything they could to get enough money for the trip across the Atlantic and began the long difficult process of emigration.
Once all the paperwork and medical examinations were done, we found out that my father's x-rays showed he had black spots on his lungs. Now my dad would have to quit his records manufacturing job and wait 6 months to see if his lungs cleared-up. We finally met all requirements and permitted to emigrate.
With luggage now all packed, my parents with 4 kids leave by train to Belgium's seaport of Zebrugge. After spending a night in a hotel, we head to our passenger ship (SS Italia) and go on board. A couple hours later on the first of June of 1956, we are on our way to Canada with one stop in Calais, France to pick up more passengers. The trip across the ocean was enjoyable as we had great weather (only a half hour of rain), although my mother was sick most of the way since she was 2 months pregnant.
On the 6th of June, we landed at Pier 21 in Halifax, NS. Once we cleared customs, we boarded the train to Toronto. As we could not afford meals on the train, my father managed to find a store nearby when it stopped at Trois Riviere, PQ to pick up a loaf of bread and a pound of butter. That is all we had for meals during the 3-day/3-night trip.
The first few years in Canada were difficult struggles with job searches for my dad and all of us learning a new language. My parents, however, did manage to buy their first home a year after we got here with very careful money management by my mother.
I'm happy that Canada has given our family many opportunities. I'm a proud Canadian who was prepared to defend the country's generosity to immigrants and refugees, as well as its values and diversity by having served 40 years in the Canadian Forces. I am also very proud of my Polish heritage.