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The Immigration Story of Dr. Elisabeth Zoffman (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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In 1957 our family could no longer support itself in Denmark and Sweden. Food was scarce and our parents both worked long days. My maternal uncles had come to British Columbia earlier and my parents decided to come to Canada to join them.
I remember an exceptionally long journey on the S.S. Italia - there were storms on the way and all my family except for me were horribly sea-sick. Our fellow passengers were all Hungarian refugees bound for farms on the prairies. It was a shock to be placed in the 'day-care' with all the other children who could not communicate with me. Like Jerzy Kozinski's "Painted Bird", I was targeted for my white-blond hair and soon wouldn't enter the room - screaming and clinging to the door-frame. This left me free to wander the ship as others lay moaning on their beds. What a treat.
We were all excited when we saw the sliver of land that so slowly grew into Halifax harbor and pier 21. Not long after landing we were on the train headed west but had to stop in Montreal because my older sister was ill. Two weeks there was a treat because all the older ladies would chase my younger sister and me around with cookies so they could touch our white hair saying "Des biscuits? Des Biscuits?".
The prairies were were dreary in March and seemed to go on forever and ever given we had come from a country that one could cross by car or train in a matter of hours. The big surprise came in the middle of one night when our father shook us all awake and told us to look at the mountains. I rolled over in the berth and looked out and saw rock walls, then I rolled on my back and far above us, shining in the moonlight, were snow-covered peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Amazing! Denmark's "Heaven Mountain" is a whole 480 meters high - these mountain peaks were beyond imagining.
That was around the time my nose started bleeding and didn't stop until I was taken to the emergency department at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. They wanted to keep me overnight but there was no way I was going to let anyone leave me after hauling me all the way here.
Canada has been good to us all but it took a trip back to Denmark in 1976 to fully understand that it was no longer home.