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The Immigration Story of Anne Emilie Windh (Danish immigrant)

The Museum reviews and accepts donated personal or family memories and histories into its collection. As a learning institution, the accounts help us understand how individuals recollect, interpret, or construct meaning from lived experiences. The stories are not modified by Museum staff. The point of view expressed is that of the author and not that of the Museum.

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Anne Emilie Windh
Apr 18, 1953

I had a Dream

I didn’t have to run away or flee from anything, I had a very good home, and a good childhood on a farm in Denmark, where I grew up with 3 brothers.

We all learned to work, and on the farm everyone worked hard.

It was during the war, but the war did not really affect us much where we lived, other than rationing and darkness. We went to school 3 days a week. I loved school, but often I was kept home to help during the harvest, and other busy times on the farm.

I loved reading, and read many books, mostly adventure about other countries. In school, I remember a geography book where I read about Canada, only a couple of pages with a couple of small black and white photos of the mountains, the lakes, the forests, and the Mounties on their horses. I decided right then, that is where I want to live, I want to go there. I was about 12 years old, - A dream was born.

The war ended, my dream was as strong as ever, but how could I ever save enough money to go so far away, my parents were not going to help me leave home and country.

I continued my life doing what was expected of me, learning to cook and sew.

One day my dad phoned me at my present job and told me of an ad in the paper. It was a job in London England. I should check it out. My Dad was not happy when I talked of Canada. Now he thought I could go to London, stay a year, - learn to speak English, then I would get homesick, and forget about my dream.

But, - I had opportunities in London. The job I had was with the Danish Vice Consul as a Nanny.

I spent a lot of time at Canada House on Trafalgar Square, - dreaming my dream. One day I read about a job on a ranch in BC to help with four small children. I checked that out right away, and got the job. I now had to find out how to get there, the cost etc. I found that if I saved half of my salary every month it would take exactly one year to have the total cost.

I started the paperwork and was very happy, I really started to save. I walked all over London, when I met my friends who didn’t have to save, they took the tube.

The following Christmas, the people I worked for gave me a return ticket to Denmark to see my family, and to finalize my papers. Needless to say my family was not very happy to hear that in April I would be leaving for Canada.

Denmark is a lovely country, but not big enough for me, - Canada is BIG. I was now 21 years old– and adventurous.

I worked in London one and a half year, and didn’t learn much English. On April 11, 1953 I boarded the Georgic, Cunard Steam Ship Line, In Southampton England, for the most exciting trip of my life.

The crossing went well. When I first spotted the coast of Nova Scotia, what a beautiful sight, little bits of snow here and there, pretty little colored houses scattered on the hillsides. I got this feeling– it took my breath away, this is going to be my new country, I couldn’t believe I was now here.

Going through Pier 21, was exiting, - the entry went smooth, paperwork fine– I remember them taking my oranges and apples from my bag– throwing them on the ground. Someone had told me– food on the train is expensive so take the fruit from the ship you can’t eat, to have on the train. I didn’t know I was not allowed to take that into Canada.

I now boarded the train CNR, for Chilliwack BC.

On the ship I had met a young man from France, we took a liking to each other, I hung out with him and his family, communication was not easy, he spoke only French and me only Danish, but we had our dictionaries and lots of time, so we managed. I wanted to stay with them as far as Montreal, where they got off. I found my car and seat number, left my bag and went to their car. When near Montreal the conductor came through to see the tickets, he said something to me that I didn’t understand, I later found someone else and asked if my ticket was ok, he said yes, so I went back to my friends. In Montreal I said goodbye to my friends, and went to find my own car, but, - oops, no more cars, I ran to a conductor showed my ticket, - where is my car and bag? He said do you have money, I said how much– answer a couple of dollars, yes I said. He now took my arm, dragged me down the platform to a phone, made a call, threw me in a taxi, told the driver where to go, and next thing we were at a crossing– the train was stopped, they pulled me up and away we went. I now quietly went to my seat and my bag and stayed there the rest of the way.

I couldn’t believe I traveled so many days, and I was still in the same country, I didn’t want to sleep, then I could miss something. I still remember the sound of the train, the steam waving by the windows every time I looked out. It was real dark, lots of trees. The prairies was a different scenery, large flat fields, as far as you could see. Then came the mountains. I had no idea this country was this big, and had such a variety of the most beautiful scenery. Six nights later, at 6 o’clock am, I arrived in Chilliwack, to pouring rain, little English, and not knowing how to get to Agazi.

Here I was to work on a ranch and help with four young children. These people didn’t know when I was arriving, so I had to find my way there. I went to a coffee shop, and asked how to get there, a man at the counter said he was going to Agazi, he drove a bread truck, we had to cross the Fraser River. In Agazi I took a taxi to their farm. Here I stayed a month with the lady and the children, I then went to the Ranch in the Chilcotin about 150 ml. west of Williams Lake.

When there I was told– this is your horse, this is your saddle and this is your gun, and never ride out without matches in your pocket.

My dream fulfilled, everything was much more than I expected. I now worked on the ranch as a cowgirl most of the time, but cooked for the men, and rode my hose every day, - my only form of transportation. I loved it and did real cowboy work, the children came up in the summer.

I was there till the fall, then to Vancouver, did odd bits of work, till I got a job for CPA, at Sandspit Airport on Queen Charlotte Islands. Stayed for 6 weeks, didn’t like it. I got a phone call from another ranch, could I come and work for them, - yes, I will be right there I said.

I quit and went right up to the other ranch, stayed there for a year, then it was time to go home and visit my family.

I stayed in Denmark for 11 months. Had to decide– do I do what my parents want, or what I want. I worked part time while there. I knew I had to come“home” to Canada. It was important to be back within one year in order not to lose the 2 years I had been here, I wanted to be a real Canadian, - a citizen. I do love Denmark, I still do, and have been back several times, - but Canada is my home. My priority was to learn English and as I say when I travel,“I want to look like one of them” and to be one of them. I think I have succeeded in that.

On my way back to BC, I ran out of money, I stayed in Toronto to make enough to finish my trip, 3 months I thought. I knew no one in Toronto. I got a job in a bank, met and made friends, bought clothes, had fun, got married, had three kids. After 35 years it all ended, I now had to start a new life on my own– again, - but this time it was not my choice, as it had been in the past.

I am now happy– healthy– and 80, living on my own, with many hobbies, and friends. I am the most fortunate person alive.

I have been able to go back to see my family in Denmark many times, and travel other places too.

Yes, I did learn English, and with very little accent. I became a citizen after 5 years from date of first arrival.

After all, that was my priority, next to learning to speak English.

I am so proud to be Canadian. I have (had) such a wonderful life, sometimes not the easiest, but when times get tough, you can’t roll over and die, you pick up the pieces and make a new life.

As I have learned, there are many ways to live a good life, if one way does not work out; there are other ways, that can be as good, or even better.

Thank you Canada, - Thank you Pier 21, for letting me in to this beautiful country


From a humble Danish immigrant

Anne E Windh (nee Greve)

Ps. I am 81 next month, living on my own. I am still on the go, and very fit. I have much to do yet.