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How a Chicken Pox Quarantine Brought one Family to Canada

Canada would have lost Margarita Bruehler nee Sosnowsky to Paraguay if her brother hadn’t come down with the chickenpox.

Margarita’s early childhood memories are dominated by her family’s escape from Russia in 1943 and life in the battleground of German occupied Europe.

The family crossed many borders and found accommodations in freight trains, barns and refugee camps, she recalled. Some of her memories have faded but she will never forget the jubilation of war's end, and, eventually, the crossing to Canada. But the path to Canada would not be a straight one.

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.

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