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Learning How to Eat a Banana in Quarantine at Pier 21

A brave little girl named Aljas Peep spent her first days in Canada under quarantine. She was born in Estonia in 1941 during the first Soviet occupation. She and her mother fled to Germany in 1944, just ahead of the Russian re-occupation.

By 1949 things looked bad with the Berlin Blockade, so her mother looked to get them as far from Europe as possible, she explained. They were fortunate to be accepted to emigrate to Canada to join her future stepfather who was already here as a contract farm labourer.

Postwar Immigration through Pier 21

V-E (Victory in Europe) Day, May 8, 1945, marked not only the beginning of the return home from Europe for Canadian military personnel, but also a new period in immigration to Canada. During the war, immigration had slowed almost to a standstill. The postwar situation completely upended this inactivity. People from all over Europe began to arrive, and Pier 21 became the busiest ocean port of entry in the country. The circumstances of these newcomers varied greatly. Some were war brides seeking to rejoin their Canadian soldier husbands, some were Displaced Persons and political refugees who had undergone the destruction of their homes, environment, and security, and some were simply seeking greater opportunity.

Finding Humour and Strengthening the Family Bond During Quarantine

Herman Blom had secured a job as a welder in Saskatoon and the family was on their way, but their brief quarantine left him jobless.

His daughter, Gysje Koenderink, recalled an exciting crossing in which she and her five brothers and sisters saw icebergs and whales and were treated to daily performances by their opera singing table steward. The Bloms expected to pass through Pier 21 quickly and be on their way but, as Gysje explains, something was wrong with her brother Wally.

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