I’ve had this post swirling around in my head for a few weeks now. Not the updates on what we did over the long weekend, because I hadn’t planned that far in advance, but thoughts on freedom and whether we should celebrate Canada Day and the 4th of July for my friends in the US.
For weeks I’ve read articles, seen posts on FB and listened to people express their opinions on why we shouldn’t truly celebrate this weekend for various reasons like Trump, Aboriginal oppression and colonialism just for starters. And time after time I felt like there was more to be said, and that I wanted to lend my voice to it all.
Our weekend was pretty great, we spend a lot of time outdoors. My mom came over on Saturday and we hung out together, we ate shepherds pie and realized at bed time that we’d forgotten to stock up on overnight diapers for Magnus. Sunday we went for walks and spent our evening on the porch with neighbours and Monday was full of bouncy castle fun and friends who came over to keep us company. It was a great three days, and we were happy.
I remember being Johannes’ age in Romania and getting up way before the sun came up to go with my grandpa to the market. They were handing out bananas that day and if you were a child you were allowed a few more than the adults. Eggs, sugar, bananas, oranges, chocolate…they were scarce and rationed if you could even find them. There were no supermarkets to go pick up what you wanted, you either grew your food or depended on the government to ration out your portion, and that’s if you were lucky enough to hear about it through the grape vine.
I remember our one TV station playing dead air for most of the day. It was completely censored and only on a little bit in the morning and evening for “news”. Once a week we had a half hour of cartoons, and my mom tells me there was a movie on once in a while too, dubbed over and of course censored for the communist agenda.
I remember being happy because I didn’t really know anything different. I had love from my family, a roof over my head and friends to play with outside.
When communism in Romania fell, my parents (28 and 30 at the time) made quick plans to leave for Canada after realizing the new government was really no different than the one before. I cried and tried my hardest to get them to change their mind, I didn’t want to leave my grandparents and friends behind. But there we were a year later on a plane to parts unknown.
My young parents left everything behind and moved here with hardly a penny to their name. Canada accepted us and we were given the same opportunity as every immigrant family to make it on our own. My dad worked in a factory during the day and studied at night to be able to move into a better position with better pay. My mom took care of my brother and I and worked hard at finding a job. I still remember how proud we were of her when she was hired as a sales person in a local mall, her English had improved a lot in a short period of time.
I don’t remember going with my mom and brother to the grocery store and leaving with nothing. But my mom tells us the story of how she took us there to buy food for dinner, only to have her card declined and realize she had less than $20 in our account. I can only imagine how terrifying that would be for a parent, to have nothing but look at your young children and worry you may not be able to feed them tomorrow. I don’t know what that’s like because we were kids and my parents didn’t show fear, but they speak of it from time to time.
I don’t remember my great grandfather coming home as a walking skeleton from a labour concentration camp after years of being away from his family. But I have heard the story of how he was taken away by the communists for having money, money that he accumulated by working hard, investing wisely and saving all at the same time. My grandmother tells the story of how they came in the middle of the night, took away her father and threw her sister, her mother and her into the streets. How they went from having a home, to being homeless in a matter of minutes and how they lived in the unfinished foundation of a house under tarps to keep them dry. I don’t remember this because I wasn’t born yet, but I can imagine how scared my grandma was, how hard it must have been for her mom and how brutal the labour and torture was for my great grandfather in the labour camp…see it wasn’t just something the Nazis used during the Holocaust, it was something Communists used to fill labour voids as well, and many people never returned.
In Communist Romania there was no internet, no cell phones, no right to pick your job or ability to talk freely. Women didn’t have reproductive rights, or rights to pick a religion. Children couldn’t be baptized and parents were afraid of their children turning them into the authorities for saying the wrong thing. Children were taught that the “father of the nation” was the dictator, and that he above all else was the only one who loved them. Let that sink in before you read on.
For me Canada and the US represent a place of freedom and I think a lot of people now take that for granted. My family wasn’t given anything by anyone, but this place where my family decided to settle allowed us all to work hard and hold on to what we made. I was given the opportunity to go to school, to go into debt to own a home, and to be able to pay it back too. Its because we live here that my children were born, that they have access to universal health care, and they will hopefully work just as hard and remember none of the hardships, but learn from the stories.
I don’t think we should close our eyes and pretend the past didn’t happen. Awful things happened in Canada too, and the government was not and still isn’t perfect, but then neither are any of us. And while we look backwards to learn and improve, I think its just as important to look at where we are today and be proud of what we have and what we are. Perfection doesn’t exist, we are a work in progress. But freedom is something are lucky to have right here, right now and we need to celebrate that because a lot of people don’t have it. I wish this society complained less, learned more, did better, judged no one and celebrated our successes. Today’s hypersensitivity worries me, because its those cracks that get exploited by people with agendas, much like the communists, Nazis and other extremist groups did and still do so today in many parts of the world.
So that’s where I’m at with all this, and thank you for reading this far. And here are a few photos of us celebrating our life and freedom from our weekend.