Refugee se­ries struck a chord with me

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION -

RE: Spec­ta­tor refugee se­ries

I was moved by the ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle by Steve Buist on refugees en­ter­ing Canada. It was mean­ing­ful to me, since my par­ents came as refugees af­ter The Sec­ond World War, flee­ing the Rus­sian in­va­sion of the Baltic States. They es­caped in a fish­ing boat to Fin­land with only a small suit­case of pho­to­graphs. They made their way to Canada, and I was lucky enough to be born here.

My cousin was not as for­tu­nate. My un­cle and fam­ily were hounded into cat­tle cars and sent to Siberia. For 13 years they lived and worked un­der harsh con­di­tions, which many did not sur­vive.

When they were fi­nally able to find a way home, my un­cle had con­tracted tu­ber­cu­lo­sis. He died a year later and my cousin grew up “be­hind the Iron Cur­tain” un­der com­mu­nist rule. My life has turned out very dif­fer­ently from hers, sim­ply be­cause my par­ents, through stead­fast ef­fort, were able to start a new life in Canada.

We, who have en­joyed safe lives full of op­por­tu­nity, can­not eas­ily com­pre­hend what drives refugees to leave ev­ery­thing they have ever known be­hind and take the chance of com­ing to a for­eign coun­try to start over. It is fair to say that the rea­sons must be dire, and, not in­fre­quently, life-threat­en­ing.

Let’s hon­our the spirit of our amaz­ing coun­try by wel­com­ing them, by let­ting their courage in­spire us, by help­ing them to gain a foothold to­ward be­com­ing self­sup­port­ing, and by never for­get­ting how ten­u­ous free­dom truly is. Ti­ina Kaigas Powles

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