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L’histoire de l’immigration de Louis Veber (immigrant hongrois)

Le Musée examine et accepte les dons de souvenirs et d'histoires, personnelles ou familiales, à la collection. En tant qu'institution pédagogique, ces récits nous aident à comprendre comment les individus se souviennent d'expériences vécues, comment ils les interprètent ou, encore, comment ils créent un sens à partir de celles-ci. Les histoires ne sont pas modifiées par le personnel du Musée. Le point de vue exprimé est celui de l'auteur et non celui du Musée.

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Louis’ Story

My journey to Canada started in 1930 during the Depression. My father left Hungary when I was only 2 years old. He left, leaving behind my mother (his wife), my brother age 3 and my sister age 4. He left to come to Canada to look for a better life for his family. As things turned out, life in Canada was not so good either. For him to bring us all to Canada, he had to prove he had the means to look after us. It took him about 6 years until he found a suitable job to earn enough money so he could proceed to bring us all to Canada.

Our journey to Canada was not easy. It must have been hard on my mother to dispose of all our belongings, with the help from Uncles and Aunts, for which she was thankful.

In the summer of 1936 we left the town of Rakamaz, Hungary to head by train to Paris, France. For someone who has never been past the town I was born in, the trip was quite exciting. Everything we had owned had been sold so that my mother could pay for our trip to Canada.

Our problems started when we arrived in Paris. When we arrived in Paris, we were put up in a hotel in the heart of the city. When the train arrived in Paris, we were taken to a hotel. At this location there were Hungarian speaking delegates who could help us while we were in Paris. We had to go through an extensive medical examination. Due to the results of the medical we were detained in Paris for about a week. The medical staff found a problem with my brother’s eye. He had been diagnosed with Pink Eye.
Since we had a week in Paris while the diplomats debated what to do with us, my brother and I, being curious, wanted to explore the streets of Paris. The delegates helping us pinned a piece of paper with our names and where we were staying to our clothing in case we got lost.
My brother and I were overwhelmed with what there was to see. Things we saw amazed us, such as, big buildings, streetcars, shopping stores, a huge cathedral with pigeons flying all around, and a lot of people rushing around. Every day we would wander further away from the hotel. All the time my brother and I were exploring the big city my mother and sister stayed close to the hotel, eagerly waiting to hear what decision was being made as to whether we could proceed on our way to Canada or be sent back to Hungary.

The final devastating news was that we could not proceed at that time to Canada. Until my brother’s eye infection improved, we were required to return to Hungary.

Heading back was not pleasant. My mother must have been devastated. Where were we going to stay? Who was going to look after medical help to have my brother’s eye infection treated? My mother had divested of all of our belongings back in Hungary.

One consolation was that we had a lot of relatives back in Hungary that we could depend on to help us. When we arrived back home, my Aunt (my mother’s sister) took us in to stay with her and her big family. It was a full household. As soon as we arrived back, my brother went for medical help hoping his eyes would recover so we could start our journey again. As fate would have it, my brother’s eyes, after 6 months of medical treatment did not improve.

My mother had to make a drastic decision. Did she want to proceed to Canada without my brother, or wait until he was medically able to travel?

After an agonizing deliberation, the decision was made to attempt, once again, to come to Canada and leave my brother to stay at my Aunt’s place while he recovered from his eye problem. My mother also knew that we could not all stay at my Aunt’s for much longer as everything we had owned had been sold so that my mother could pay for our trip to Canada. I can imagine this decision was very difficult for her.

The trip back to Paris the second time was not as exciting as the first time. We all had a heavy heart leaving my brother behind. We were in Paris for only two days. To allow us to proceed to Canada during the evening, we were taken to a ferry to cross the English Channel to Southampton overnight. In the morning, much to my surprise, we were only walking distance from the ship that would eventually take us to Canada.

We set sail on the Ausonia of the Cunard White Star shipping line January 1, 1937, heading for |Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The seven day trip across the Atlantic Ocean was at times exciting but challenging for others. When we got on the ship we were taken to our cabin at the lowest level of the ship. It was a very small cabin with bunk beds. It had a port hole where we could see the water splashing on it. I remember a lot of people on our level getting sea sick, including my mother and sister. But lucky for me I had no such problem. The first day on the ship I became friends with a boy around my age. Together we explored the entire ship from top to bottom and from end to end. There were times we went to places we were ushered out from.

What I enjoyed most on the ship were the meals. It is where I first had Jello, ice cream, chocolate milk and many other goodies I had never tasted or seen before. After seven days on the sea rocking and rolling, we finally docked at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

When we arrived in Halifax, we were ushered into a big warehouse where we went through a procedure to allow us to proceed on to Hamilton, Ontario where my father was waiting for us. After a long train ride we finally arrived in Hamilton.

When the train stopped in Hamilton we were anxious to get off the train to finally meet my father. At first it was my mother and father who would embrace, then it was my sister and me.

The joy of arriving in Canada did not last long. By the time it took us to get here, my father had been laid off from where he had worked. Again, we were at the mercy of friends of my father who had to put us up until my father could establish a suitable home for us.

There was no employment in Hamilton due to the Depression. Luckily, my father had a sister with her husband living in Noranda, a mining town in northern Quebec where there was work available if you were willing to work in the mines. My father took the opportunity so we went to live in Noranda.

In short time he was working and earning money enough to rent a furnished apartment in the same building as my Aunt and Uncle. Again, my mother packed up what little we had and moved us all to Noranda to live in the apartment my father was able to rent. We lived there for the next seven years. Finally we had a family life.

Living in Noranda was not easy in the beginning. There, we were not able to speak either English or French. My father spoke a little English so that helped. My sister and I were enrolled in a Catholic English school where we were able to learn to speak some English in a short period of time. This was a great help to my parents. There was no Adult Learning Centre in those days. As time went on, life got better.

As we settled in, we always had my brother on our minds, hopeful that he was well cared for so that someday we would be able to have him join us in Canada. It was not until the spring of 1939 that his attending doctor gave him the all clear to travel to Canada. Without any hesitation my parents started plans to have my brother join us. By June 1st he was boarding a ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

It had been two years since we had left my brother Peter back in Hungary. We were finally so excited to see him. By mid June we were all together again as a family.

For the next 5 years we stayed in Noranda, getting used to the Canadian way of living. After 7 years living in a mostly French populated part of Canada my parents decided to move to Southern Ontario, where many other Hungarian immigrants from our home town in Hungary had previously settled. It is a part of Ontario where mainly tobacco was grown. We arrived in August, just in time for the tobacco harvest. All 5 of us found work on a Hungarian tobacco farm. After the harvest was complete at the end of August we settled in Delhi where we lived for the next 4 years.

Many big changes happened while living in Delhi. My father and mother worked seasonal jobs on farms and in orchards. My sister got married. She and her husband moved to Brantford where they lived for the rest of their life. They had 3 girls. My sister died at the age of 38. My brother moved back to Noranda for a short time and after about 2 years he also settled down in Brantford where he got married. He and his wife had 5 children; two boys and 3 girls.

As for myself, living in Delhi for 4 years, it is where my adult life began. My first real job working in a small farm implement factory, is where I learned many skills that laid the foundation of my working career. All this time I continued to live with my parents. In 1948 we all decided to move to Brantford. My father found work in a roofing factory where my brother-in-law worked. As for myself, since Brantford was known as a big manufacturing city at that time, I found work at a large farm implement factory, all the while taking night courses to improve my skills. It all contributed to my ultimate goal to be a First Class Industrial Maintenance person. This was the type of work I enjoyed for over 30 years.
At the age of 23 I married a wonderful young lady I had met at a local Hungarian Club. We were married for 47 years until her death. During that time we were blessed with 6 great children; four boys and 2 girls. Raising 6 children was a fulltime commitment for my wife and I. Most of the time I held down 2 jobs while my wife worked inside the home raising 6 children and maintaining the household. Looking back now, it is hard to imagine how we did it.

As it turned out, we were able to provide all 6 children with a good education. We encouraged them all to continue their schooling if they chose to, in order to achieve the best foundation for the rest of their lives. I am glad to say, we were successful. All of them are now married, have their own families and are doing well. It is because of them that now at the age of 90 I can enjoy my 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren. One regret, is that my wife is no longer here to enjoy them with me.

Ladislas Veber (Louis)
As told from 1930 to present (2018)