Wednesday, June 28, 2017

By Jennette Lukasik

Red and white—colours shared by the flags of two countries. The one with the single eagle is the Polish flag. The one with the single maple leaf is the Canadian flag. Both these flags reflect who I am.
         My mother Antonina was born in Poland in 1907. My father Jan was also born in Poland in 1898. I am first generation Canadian. Both my parents came from the area of Poland nearest the Russian border, my mother from Zrebce, my father from Zaporze
         In the early 1900s Poland was reborn as a democratic state. More than two-thirds of the population were engaged in agriculture. Polish nobility owned the large estates and palatial houses. Peasants such as my parents’ families owned small farms. Their farms were too small to provide a decent living for a family.
         Out of necessity peasants were forced to work the land of the nobility. My parents grew to resent the estate-owners and their often cruel treatment of the peasants who worked for them. Antonina and Jan realized that life had to be better elsewhere.
         By the early 1930s both my parents separately, not yet having met, were able to get sponsorships that allowed them to emigrate to Canada. Neither of them spoke English. They came with the attitude that they were willing to work hard to succeed in a strange, new country. Succeed they did!
         Throughout their lives, my parents revealed to me their appreciation for the successes in life that Canada gave them. Ever the hard worker, my mother, at various times in her life worked as a maid at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto, every summer as a fruit picker at local farms, as sales person in a bakery, even as a night-time worm collector  well into her 70s. My dad, with no education, was able to get a job in a local steel factory. Canada offered them opportunities they could never dream of in the country they’d left. The ultimate success was their ability to purchase their own home.

         The result of my parents’ courage to set out into the unknown has allowed me and my family to be a part of this wonderful country. Both my parents encouraged me to take advantage of the opportunities available in Canada, a message of which I, my husband and children have always been mindful. I often pause to reflect on the hardships my parents endured, leaving the familiarity of home, family and country of birth to set out for an unfamiliar country. I offer them a silent whisper of gratitude for the life they have gifted to our family and generations to come in the Canada that I love.


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