Making a Home in Canada
Image 6.1. The Parkwoods Village Drive area in North York experienced a change in demographics while the Gorski’s lived there. Over time, Polish families moved out including the Gorski’s. Courtesy of Google Maps. © 2016
Finding and Making New Connections in Toronto
After their first night in Toronto, the couple moved to an apartment in the Parkwoods Village Drive area of North York. It was difficult in the beginning for the couple to find work as they did not know English. However, the conversational Italian Ryszard had learned in Italy helped him to secure a job with an Italian employer.
In North York, Grazyna and Ryszard found an active Polish-Canadian community. Their superintendent, nanny and some of Grażyna’s work colleagues were Polish-Canadian. They found that the Polish-Canadian community had a high degree of visibility in Toronto and various modes of support for newcomers. This support was organized through churches, cultural institutions and organizations that encouraged integration into Canadian society while also preserving Polish language, culture and identity (Matejko, 1996, p. 178).
Starting a Career
Like Grażyna, many of the Solidarity refugees were young, which affected their views on equality and participation in society (Kozak, 2011, p. 151). In fact, research shows that members of the Solidarity Wave were more open minded than older generations of Polish immigrants (Kozac, 2011, p. 150). Polish-Canadian women in the Solidarity Wave asserted their agency by making choices about their lives (Jarochowska-de Kosko, 2011, pp. 187-188). Grażyna, for instance, chose to attend college in Toronto after settling in Canada to become an operating room nurse. This eventually led to a job at a hospital in Richmond Hill where she still works today.
Image 6.2. Grazyna’s home in River Drive Park, Ontario where she still resides with her husband, Ryszard. Image courtesy of Peter Gorski. © 2015
Moving and Making a Home
In 1999, the couple moved to Markham. They were eager to move from an apartment to a house to gain more space. They remained connected to the Parkwoods Village neighbourhood, as Grażyna’s son continued to attend the same school for a year after they moved to their new house. Three years after moving to Markham the Gorski family moved to River Drive Park, a small township community north of Toronto. Since moving to Canada, Grażyna has visited Poland four times.
“We’re happy here. It’s a quiet, nice area and good for kids.”
As a newcomer Grażyna was able to access multiple community support networks.
What motivates communities and individuals to help newcomers settle in Toronto? Do all communities receive the same kind of support or have access to the same services?
How did Grażyna and Ryszard pull on their past experiences both in Poland and in Italy to find work, community, friends, and a home in Toronto? What can we do to help people who don’t have a network or access to the level of support that Grażyna and Ryszard received? How can we help them to thrive in Toronto?