Immigration story of Maria Serrarens-Monnikendam (Dutch Immigrant)

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Maria Serrarens-Monnikendam, oldest of 5 children. In 1953 we were to go with the "Grote Beer" on Friday June 10th to travel to Canada. This did not happen as our Mother had a spot on her lung that needed to be checked. The 5 of us were pulled out of school already we did not have our home in South Limburg anymore and the "kist" was packed and ready in Rotterdam to be shipped. We stayed with relatives all over the Netherlands until Saturday September 19th when we allowed to go on the "Sibajak" in Rotterdam. I was 14 years then. It was a rough journey, taking a whole day longer than planned because of the storms and giant waves and it took until Tuesday September 29th. Most people were sick. My Dad and I and one little sister were okay and we stayed mostly on deck. The sleeping quarters were smelly and the bathrooms worse. Most of the family spent much time in bed. We finally landed in Halifax at Pier 21 and after a few hours we were put on an old black train like the one in front of Pier 21 outside. It was not comfortable on those wooden benches for sitting or sleeping for 2 days and 2 nights. We expected to see Indians and bears out of the windows, what did we know? To this day I only like the sound of a train in the distance. My Dad had a wife, 5 children and 50.00 dollars when we arrived in London, Ontario. Lucky for us an Uncle and Aunt picked us up at the train station. After a week and a half with them we found an old house out in the country and our lives in Canada started. Dad found a good-paying job in a London factory. My good fortune was that I was able to attend high school at the Motherhouse of the sisters of St. Joseph’s for 5 years. They were wonderful people and I stayed with the Sisters in their St. Joseph’s Hospital for 3 years to train as a Registered Nurse. During the 2nd year I met my husband-to-be at a Dutch club. I worked in a restaurant evenings, on the tobacco farms in summers and after graduation I worked in a veterans hospital where we still had 2 soldiers from the “Boer” war. My Mother was organist for 26 years in the Church in a mostly Dutch community, (she did this without pay), and we were all in the choir. My parents are gone now but I love my life in Canada. We all did well and have families of our own and see each other regularly. Long Live Canada!!!

P.S. Loved visiting Pier 21 with hubby and friends. (My husband flew here in 1956.)