Elizabet Fajta

Families 1956

My parents and my brother (age 4) and I (age 6) arrived at Pier 21 after a 9-day voyage on the Dutch ship the "Johan van Oldenbarneveldt" out of Rotterdam. The majority of the passengers were, as we were, refugees from the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 on our way to a new life in Canada. We had been waiting in a camp in Holland since December so as not to make a winter crossing. The Canadian government sent us lots of National Film Board ‘shorts’ – beautiful films of Arctic wild flowers and how igloos were built. Seeing Pier 21 for the first time I was relieved to see there were no igloos in sight. I was relieved too that no whale had managed to swallow the ship, although I would have liked to have seen a whale. Viewed from the deck, the wharf loomed enormous, black, smelling of tar – not what I would call "land" at all. (This sounds very naive but it was the time before I had any exposure to television whatsoever.) Sometime in the 60′s this ship sank in the Adriatic – by then it was a Greek liner, the "Laconia".