New Home, New Friends
Image 4.1: Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto under construction, 1989. Image courtesy of Toronto Star License.
The Move to Toronto
Grażyna’s first impression after landing at Pearson Airport in Toronto was that Canada was cold. She had been used to the warmer climate of Italy. It was a shock to go from mild 10°C weather to a harsh Canadian winter with temperatures hovering around 0°C.
The couple only had $200 when they arrived in Canada. Adding to her unease was the terrible condition of the hotel that she and Ryszard stayed at on their first night. It was dirty, infested with cockroaches, and under construction. Grażyna questioned whether she had made the right decision to move to Canada.
Image 4.2: Grażyna and Ryszard at their wedding in Toronto. Photo courtesy of Peter Gorski. © 2016
Nice To Meet You
Grażyna found comfort when she met another Polish couple, Nina and Jerzy, who were also staying at the hotel. She heard Nina shout through the wall when she saw a cockroach. The couples quickly became friends when they realized that they had taken the same route to Toronto, migrating from Poland through Rome. Having a shared experience helped Grażyna feel more confident with her decision to move to Canada. Nina and Jerzy became life-long friends and they attended Grażyna and Ryszard’s modest wedding.
Both couples are part of the Solidarity Wave of Polish immigrants. This refers to the approximately 10,000 Polish migrants who came to Canada from Poland during the 1980s. These immigrants were seeking refuge from an oppressive communist regime and a crumbling economy. Grażyna, who illegally left Poland and applied for citizenship in Italy, was part of this movement.
“They are friends forever.”
In what ways does Grażyna’s experience as a legal refugee in Canada compare with her experiences in Italy where she worked illegally?