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The Immigration Story of Karin Manion (German 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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It was the saddest day of my life, for I left Germany on Dec. 8, 1954 to embark on a voyage to start a new chapter in my life. My Father (Heinz Kunka) was an adventurous spirit, he immigrated to Canada in 1953 in order to prepare a new home for the rest of the family. (mother Eva, brother Siegfried and myself) At the time the Canadian Government was busy recruiting skilled technical people in Germany. The country was already arising from its ashes and mom and dad were employed, life was comfortable, but dad got the idea to emigrate to Canada, "The Land of Opportunity", for this is the way the Canadian Government solicited Germans to leave their homes.
So, here we had arrived in Halifax, frightened and full of anticipation. We were guided to the Pier 21 immigration arrival area for documentation check. It was already dark, suddenly a dusk figure appeared from nowhere and handed us a box of what turned out to be Kellogg's Com Flakes, Somewhat of a riddle to us, we had no idea what this gift represented. To this date, whenever I encounter Kellogg's Com Flakes, arrival nostalgia and emotional attachment is awakened within me. Custom dispatch followed; there was not much to check, we were only allowed to bring some meager belongings which filled an oversea trunk and a suitcase for each person. Mom was unusually nervous, for we had to sign documentation that we would not bring any Nazi literature or keepsakes of that nature to Canada. Mom had brought along "Mein Kampf' as this book was presented to each German Citizen at the City Hall at time of their marriage in East Prussia. The Allied Powers in their wisdom decreed this province to Russia, Poland and Lithuania for administration. My family became refugees, and we have not seen our homeland since 1945. Thus mom had a special attachment to this souvenir and was afraid that the family would not be allowed to stay in this new world should someone discover it.
From there it was on to our final destination- Trenton, Ontario- by train. We were somewhat shocked at how primitive the accommodation was, it certainly was not very sanitary, we were not impressed. It was just before Christmas so folks had decorated their homes en-route with colored lights, not being used to such custom we thought it was rather kitschy at the time. Homes also featured TV towers, we thought they were lightning deflectors thus our first impressions were not exactly positive.
We finally arrived in Trenton after two days- Dec. 18th, 1954.- What a culture shock! From Berlin to "small town" Ontario. Some of my first impressions- too much snow (had to buy boots immediately.) The antiquated Ontario liquor laws were a curiosity and annoyance. We were intrigued and overjoyed by the self-service grocery stores. We also marveled at the horse-drawn milk delivery to each home. Most everyone owned a car dad bought our first one after having been here 5 years. Our family purchased only whatever could be paid for in full, our house being the exception.
In the New Year I was registered at Trenton High School, was at a disadvantage not knowing the language. School was difficult, this town was not an immigrant center like Toronto, in fact I was the only foreigner in school and was thus quite a curiosity, or so it seemed. Some teachers were openly hostile towards me, most went out of their way to assist and be kind. I soon made friends among my peers, but sincethis was an Air Force Town, families were being posted to other locations rather frequently, thus friends gained, were lost quickly. I graduated in 1959 among the upper ranks despite my earlier language handicap. I am eternally grateful to my commercial teacher Miss Anne Johnston who raised my self-esteem and was responsible for the knowledge and education I received and which was most valuable in future employment.
I soon married, raised two children, all the while being employed, had a broken marriage and moved to Toronto. There I worked for two memorable law firms respectively for a period of thirty years. I love this city and feel privileged to have witnessed such a remarkable and positive development of this unique place.
Over the years we acquired a genuine attachment and love for Canada. We all became citizens as soon as the five year requirement was attained. Unfortunately we greatly missed our relatives and friends in Germany. It was also most regrettable that my children were deprived of the comfort derived from normal close contact with relatives while here. I made frequent visits to the old country, but was always glad to return to Toronto, Canada, this my chosen home.