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.

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