Final Destination: Toronto, Canada

Finally, August 11, 1981, the day we have been anxiously waiting for, has arrived. We were ready for the big overseas flight. The day before, the taxi came and took us to the Traiskirchen camp, where we collected our Fremdenpasses (Austrian aliens passports) stamped with the Canadian entry visas and our plane tickets to Toronto. We spent the night at a Traiskirchen hotel and early in the morning the taxi came and took us to the Vienna International Airport. It was all arranged by WCC, the passports, the plane tickets, the hotel, the transportation to the airport.

We boarded the plane that flew us to Zurich, Switzerland. After a few hours layover we boarded the big Boeing that took us to Toronto. It was a long flight. Longer than the usual 8 hours. We were told that because of the US air controllers strike, the plane was rerouted and instead of the usual trans-Atlantic flight we flew above Greenland and entered Canadian airspace from the north. That was unusual but we didn’t know. Nor did we know that six days before our flight, President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who ignored his order to return to work. Not having TV nor radio, we were oblivious to what was happening in the world.

We didn’t know about the US air traffic controllers strike that started on August 3.

Ronald Reagan declared the strike a “peril to national safety” and ordered them back to work. Only 1,300 of the nearly 13,000 controllers returned to work. Subsequently he proceeded in firing those who did not return to work. That impacted air traffic for weeks.

What a time to travel by plane! But we did not know all that, found out only later.

Our flight was 10 hours long and we also had an one hour stop in Montreal. We stayed on while some travellers descended the plane to catch connecting flights.

I don’t remember much about the flight. It was long, too long. Couple of hours into the flight, I felt light headed and dizzy and my ears were all plugged. Krisztina had airsickness too. She started crying and vomiting. Poor little girl! She felt really sick and threw up. She felt a little better afterward but her clothes were all messy and smelly. I packed all our clothes in the suitcase that I checked in. I had to improvise. We went to the lavatory and I undressed her and placed her soiled clothing in a plastic bag. I took off the sleeveless t-shirt I wore under my shirt (luckily) and put it on her. It looked like a long oversized dress on her but it was dry. And this is how we arrived to Toronto.

We were tired and weary but happy when we landed. We arrived to our final destination. Canada accepted us and gave us landed immigrant status. We were nervous but we weren’t scared anymore. At the airport we had to pass through the entry process. We were directed to the immigration office, where we had to show all our documents and answer questions about our personal information. The immigration officer typed up three separate forms, one for each of us. We were told to keep those papers safe because those were our Landed Immigrant documents. After the processing we were told to present ourselves the next day to the Manpower Office for further assistance and were given the address of the hotel where we were temporarily housed. A taxi was called that took us downtown Toronto, to the hotel that was located on Charles Street, near the corner of Young and Bloor. We lived there while we looked for an apartment to rent and moved out when we rented one starting September 1.

Going back to our roots.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020
9:23 PM

After more than thirty years away, in 2011, Arpad and I returned to Timisoara to live in my father’s house.
My father needed help because of his advanced age of 84 and his declining health .
After my mother’s passing in 2004, he was left alone to take care of himself and the house in Timisoara. He did that for a couple of years but it was getting harder for him as time went by. He travelled to Canada and stayed with us during the winter in December 2006 until June 2007 and in December 2010 until June 2011.
To relocate him to Canada was out of the question because it would have been a lengthy process to try to sponsor him to emigrate to Canada. Without legal Canadian status he would not be entitled to medical insurance. We could not afford to pay for his medical expenses in case he fell ill and needed hospital care.
We already had an experience with mom’s hospitalization in 2003. She had heart failure and needed emergency intervention while she and my dad visited us.
They bought travel insurance but payments were declined because she had a preexisting condition. We ended up with a bill of $ 14,000 for a 4 days stay in the cardiac intensive care.
We were at a stage in our lives where a move back to Romania was possible.
The girls grew up. Krisztina moved, first to Victoria from 1996 to 2002 where she attended university and then she moved to Vancouver. Julia moved to London, Ontario at the beginning of 2011 because of her job relocation. Isabella was out of high school and was thinking about moving out and renting a place with her friends. Arpad was receiving disability pension following a work injury at Ford Motor company. I was working as a cashier at a hardware store at the time but I quit before our move.
So in May of 2011 we ended the lease on the house on 85 Guildwood Dr. where we have been living since 2002. We emptied the house by taking some furniture to London to Julia, kitchenware to Isabella. We disposed of all the rest of our belongings. Isabella ended up moving to the back apartment on Mac Nab St. North , our old house, belonging to Arpad’s brother now. We rented the place from him for Isabella, paying $ 450/mos.
We were worried about leaving Isabella alone but the thought of her living close to family gave us some comfort.
A move was also a welcome relief from some unpleasant situation we found ourselves in because of a business venture in Buffalo NY.
On June 2, 2011 Arpad and I, together with my father boarded a plane in Toronto
and left our life in Canada behind for an indefinite time.
I had mixed feelings about going back to Romania to live with my father in the house I grew up and spent my childhood in. In a way I felt relief to get away from the problems we had. In another way I felt like I lost the part of myself that I became in Canada. I lost Vicki, the mature, confident adult and became Ibi again,
insecure and fearful of my father.
Arpad and I returned to live in our old room that remained unchanged for 31 years.
Same furniture, same carpet, same curtains. It was like going back in time.
It took a while until we adjusted to the new life there. We started by connecting to the internet so we can be in touch with our daughters in Canada and be up to date with the Canadian news. We bought an LCD TV. And we bought an older model BMW in good condition so we can drive around as needed.
Things have changed in Romania since we left in 1980.
In 1989 the people fed up with the hardship and poverty they were living in, started a revolution that led to the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu and the fall of communism. In the following years basic economic and political freedoms were introduced and private companies flourished . Romanian people were free to travel all over Europe and the world. There was an abundance of merchandise in the stores and plentiful food supply. Still, people were unhappy because while a select few taking advantage of the political turmoil, became rich , the majority were working long hours for not enough pay. Still, it was a changed world what we went back to. At first we were excited and fearful to live there and tried to fit in and make the best of it. We visited old places and old friends and relatives and took short trips to different places in Romania and Hungary.
Krisztina visited us twice and Isabella tried a short visit but ended up leaving after 2 days. She developed anxiety and insomnia being there. I guess it was a culture shock for her and could not adjust. The best thing for her was to return to Canada to familiar surroundings.
We lived there until October 2013 when we came back to Canada partly because Arpad needed medical attention . He developed heart arrhythmia and rapid heartbeat and partly because living with my father was not easy.
Leaving Romania felt like a new escape. This time we knew what to expect and it was a return to the life we knew and liked.
We rented a two bedroom apartment beside the Hungarian Presbyterian Church
Downtown Hamilton . It was yet another new beginning for Arpad and I.