Gratitude for Safety and Freedom

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 grandmother 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.

My son on the Queen's Staircase in Nassau, Bahamas... gratitude for freedom

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!

pumpkin pie at 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.

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  1. What a beautiful post! My sister and I took our Ancestry DNA test this past summer and we ended up finding a lot of family. I became close to a lot of them, even just knowing them a few months and I am grateful that we are now piecing together where we are from. This is from my father’s side, we are still looking through my mom’s side. But are hopeful that we will be able to find more people that we are related to. A very fascinating subject 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving Sherry!

    1. Yes, it is. I have wondered about the Ancestry DNA test. I may have to try that as well. It may fill in a few more pieces of my family history puzzle! 🙂

  2. Interesting post. My family is of Luxembourgish descent. Sometimes when I tell people that’s my ancestry, they don’t even know it’s a country, except where I live, which has a large population of people from there.

    1. Thanks for reading this and sharing your story. I find it interesting how people who emigrated from the same country often end up in the same general area. I’m sure there is comfort in having people of the same culture together. They could support one another as well.

  3. I am grateful for my family, and my home. I don’t know a lot about Canada. I live in the US. Thank you for this insight into your life 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading this post, Leiloni! Family and home are two beautiful things to be grateful for. I love visiting the US and hope to visit a lot more states in the future. 🙂

  4. My mother was born in a DP camp after WWII and she came over here on a ship with my grandparents in 1950. Not quite as wild as Kansas to Canada and Brazil, but still was a big life change for them. Why Brazil? It’s supposed to be an amazing place, but I wouldn’t imagine a lot of people move from Kansas to Brazil.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Brett! I don’t imagine life prior to being placed in a DP camp would be easy in any manner! I’m sure life within the camp was tough as well to say the least. Great question about Brazil. My grandmother wasn’t able to answer that question and had lost touch. I’ve looked up the last name and see a LOT of names come up with that name in Brazil… quite fascinating, really!

  5. I’ve recently begun looking into my family history, though it’ll be trickier for me – my Paternal grandfather’s family came to Newfoundland sometime in the 1700s, my paternal grandmother’s family is a bit easier to trace – but also came to North America quite some time ago. My maternal family is from the Ukraine, but that’s all I really know.

    Personally, I’ve lived in both the US and Canada and am open to moving again if life leads that direction. I am so grateful that the global community is becoming more open and welcoming of others. I look forward to the day when ‘nations’ will be more like neighbourhoods and all people will be welcomed everywhere.

    I’m looking forward to checking out more of your blog – as a mama to 4 kiddos with varying learning styles, I’m excited to see what I find here.

  6. Beautifully written! Through my genealogy research, I learned my family fled the Irish famine, another was in an orphanage during the Great Depression, and I had some killed in a famous Jamestown massacre. I truly believe everything they went through makes is who we are today.

  7. It’s great that you are able to trace your roots. That’s a blessing! My family history is so convoluted and as generations expand stories get loss. We’re able to get mostly accurate history from my maternal grandmothers side and they wrote a family history book. However for the rest of my family there are many versions of our history.

  8. Great reflective post. Many people indeed leave their home country for a better life in a new country. It usually is the reason for many Indians moving across continents and coming to Canada or US or UK. It definitely is very hard if you know no one in the new place but I feel the hope for better life gets one going strong. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading the post and for sharing your input, Rapinder! I am with you in believing the hope for a better life gets one going strong. 🙂

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