You know how you have moments that, when you look back, you have sincere gratitude for them? I am extremely grateful that, years ago, I came across and purchased 2 copies of Grandmother: A Record Book of Memories by Linda Spivey. Even more so, I am grateful that I had the questions in the book answered by my paternal grandmother and my mother before it was too late. It is through my copies of these books that I am now able to easily look up much of my family history.
It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. I live in Canada thanks to having grandparents that immigrated here. It is with gratitude that I share their stories and more in this post.
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My Family History
My paternal grandmother’s family fled Russia. They were Germans living in Russia when conditions for Germans living there drastically deteriorated. Staying put would not have been the safe option. They fled to Wilson, Kansas where my grandmother was born before her parents and siblings continued on to Canada in 1913 when my grandmother was just one year old. For whatever reason, most of my great-grandmother’s siblings continued on from Kansas to live in Brazil.
My paternal grandmother is pictured below holding my youngest daughter.
My maternal grandmother came with her family to escape Belgium during the First World War. Her mother brought her and her sister. They sailed to New York from Amsterdam in December, 1914. From New York, they took the train to Montreal where my grandmother’s father was already located. They fled Belgium for safety, freedom and a better life!
Both of my grandfathers were born in Canada. I am uncertain which of their ancestors immigrated first, but each of my grandfathers were of Irish descent. According to family records, my maternal grandfather’s family immigrated way back in 1668 to what is now Quebec. They changed the spelling of their last name to appear French within the French settlement they were living in.
Moments Etched in My Memory
Being a teacher, there are students I’ve taught that are forever etched in my memory. One example is siblings that immigrated to Canada with their mother and other family members after witnessing their father get dragged from their home and executed directly in front of them. I always wondered how these kids kept it together. However, they were extremely grateful and polite individuals who did not take the freedom of this country for granted.
There is also a university assignment I will never forget. The university had paired us with families newly immigrated to Canada. I visited the apartment of the family I was paired up with to interview them. One of the children worked as our interpreter. The mother was quick to respond when I asked the question, “What is one thing you immediately noticed when arriving in Canada?”
She responded, “People smile here. Back home, people do not smile. There is no reason to. They are too concerned for their safety.”
The Queen’s Staircase in Nassau, Bahamas is a location my family and I have been blessed to visit. The staircase was hand carved through limestone with pick axes and hand tools by approximately 600 slaves. It took more than 16 years to complete the Queen’s Staircase! I can’t help but feel gratitude for my own freedom each time I see it or think about it. Below is a picture of my son walking up the Queen’s Staircase.
Reflections and Pondering
I often wonder what people’s family history is. How is it that people come to live where they do? For me, both of my grandmothers are direct ancestors that immigrated to Canada. Both of them were moved by their parents as young children. They were moved for safety and their parents’ intention of providing them with a better life.
Many free countries continue to have people immigrating to them for similar, if not the same reasons, that my own grandmothers immigrated to Canada. I wonder what support my grandmothers’ families needed to get on their feet. Surely they required some support! How hard did they have to work to create a better life for us? I wonder what hardships they endured to simply arrive to their final destination safely. Who helped them along the way? How did they support one another?
Blessings and Gratitude
I feel incredibly blessed to be able to live and raise my family in a free country. I love to travel to other countries with my hubby and our children as well. There is so much to see and learn by visiting other places and countries! I find travel often enhances my thankfulness for where I live. It also enhances my appreciation for what my grandmothers and their families must have endured to get here.
Being able to live in a country that welcomed my ancestors and provided them with safety and an opportunity for a better life is something I am grateful for. I am thankful to be able to raise my children knowing at least some of my family history. It is my hope that my children continue to pass the information along to future generations.
Whenever possible, I believe it’s important to find out our family history and discover how it is that we came to live where we do. If relevant to us as individuals, expressing gratitude for the freedom, safety and opportunities achieved by our ancestors’ immigration is important. Personally, I have become increasingly grateful for the bravery and resilience of my grandparents as they immigrated to Canada.
I reflect on the bravery and resilience of my ancestors when I see new immigrants today. I remind myself that we are all of the same race… the human race! We all deserve to feel safe and free.
I smile in gratitude that my ancestors were accepted into this beautiful country. Happy Thanksgiving!
What about you?
What are you grateful for in your life? Let me know in the comments below.
Do you know of any family members that immigrated to the country you are currently living in? Or did you yourself leave one country to live in another? If so, please feel free to share your story in the comments.