Aleksandra Budisavljevic

Country of Origin:

Serbia

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Aleksandra reads a section of a poem that carried a lot of meaning for her as an immigrant to Canada from Serbia.


Story

My name is Aleksandra Budisavljevic. I live in Windsor, Ontario. I came here in 1938.

I left my homeland April the 4th, 1938. It was a beautiful day. My father, mother, and four of us loaded up what belongings we could bring to a horse-drawn carriage, and started towards a train that would take us to Lahare, France. From there we would board a ship to come to Canada.

My imagination was like any twelve year-old's. We were told that in Canada houses were made of wood, and paper inside. I expected log cabins and newspapers covering the walls. Not at all like my home - brick, Italian tiles, and painted walls.

We landed in Canada April the 19th at Halifax but did not leave ship until we came to Montreal, where we boarded a train and continued on to Toronto. We arrived late in the day and spent several hours in the train station, where we children were fascinated by a young girl wearing roller skates and chewing. Days later we found out it was bubble gum.

Somewhere around midnight we were ushered up to a train for Windsor, and arrived very early in the morning April the 21st, 1938. We knew no one, and no one came to greet us. My dad had a cousin in Detroit, who he contacted. It was agreed that his son would come to help us. My first shock inside the Canadian house was wallpaper. It was not newspaper. It was pretty, bright, and the floors were real linoleum. Another surprise - no school on Saturday! We played on the green grass, and went to school on Monday. There, I suffered another shock. I was put into kindergarten. All those small children and no one to make friends with. I was lost. The teacher asked me to read. I had six years of schooling. I read both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. I proceeded to read: "Eee Am Yo-hen," "I am John." I looked again. It was the strangest thing. You write one thing and you read it different. 'Spelling,' they called it.

Many years later I married, operated a business, and made myself useful. Eventually I became a President on International Activities, with women helping women, and aiding the youth was very rewarding. There, I became a Governor of EC Canada region. In 1986 and '88, we built a garden in Jackson Park as a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of our existence. I became very active in the Serbian Heritage Women's Society that I organized, and we built a Serbian heritage museum - the only one on this continent. In the present, I work at keeping up the Serbian heritage, sharing it with my Canadian friends, and introducing new Canadians to their future in Canada.