Expectations & First Impressions
October 25, 2018
We did expect a better life than the one we left behind, with greater opportunities to find happiness.” – Boleslaw "Bill" Dranski.
It is a given that arriving to any new place for the first time may result in a kind of sensory overload. Some of these differences resulted in lasting impressions. When asked for these reflections, many of the participants in the Displaced Persons project noted Canada's geography and climate.
We were taken aback by the expansive wilderness of Canada. We had departed from a city, and northern Ontario was an eye-opener" – Boleslaw "Bill" Dranski.
Justina Novak also mentions the environmental aspect of getting used to Canada. Coming as a teenager in the early 1950s, she was disappointed on the train ride in, as all there was to see outside the windows on the way to northern Ontario was "bush" – trees and more trees after that.
We had never seen snow at the end of April before!” – Boleslaw "Bill" Dranski.
Gino Tomasi, from Italy, remarks that the snow was one of the first impressions of his new home in Canada.
We left Renabie [a mine in northern Ontario] and the snow was flying. When we arrived in Oshawa it was lovely weather, warm, with no snow" – Victoria Szczepanski.
An expectation that many of the DPs seemed to share was related to Canada's political climate. Canada was an opportunity for freedom and a chance at prosperity, very different to what people were leaving behind in Europe.
Times-Gazette, March 25th, 1948.
This article interviews a few of the Greeks who arrived the day before (on the 24th) about conditions in Greece in the midst of the civil war. Compared to the tactics of the communist guerrillas, the arrivals describe Canada "with its friendliness and prosperity" as "like Heaven."
Justina Novak shares the importance of the freedom aspect for herself and her family when immigrating. Along those same lines, Jan Drygala was told that Canada was the "land of milk and honey."
Canada was a free country. Poland was taken over by the Russians and we didn’t want to go there. So we felt that Canada would allow us to have a life that was free of oppression.” – Victoria Szczepanski.
Were some of these positive expectations met?
Joseph Filletti enthusiastically states that they were – that "Canada is the best country in the world!" – while Justina Novak says that they were not quite met. She said that her family on the way over also thought Canada was "like heaven," but taking into consideration the hard work of the journey and reality of life, it wasn't as easy as they'd thought.
Some people treated us well, and with respect. Others looked at us as newcomers and would occasionally call us DP" – Victoria Szczepanski.
On the whole, the participants in the project expressed great gratitude. They were happy to have arrived in Canada and, despite much uncertainty at first, were able to fit themselves into their new homes.
To my knowledge, speaking to many earlier rounds of immigrants, Oshawa always treated them very well. Those willing to work hard and commit to life here invariably prospered.” – Boleslaw "Bill" Dranski.
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