Pier Perspectives Blog
Our family histories are the stories that we decide to repeat and share, editing out the parts that were unclear or unseemly, and over generations those stories become our truths. But what if there was someone who could help decipher family facts from family lore?
When there is a war in a country, it can become difficult for its citizens to leave... People lose their lives and leave their homes to escape to neighboring countries. Or, they might simply stay put and instead move around the country while waiting to return to their homes.
Several refugees who arrived in Canada from the former Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Warsaw Pact Invasion shared their stories with the Museum in the form of oral histories. Reflecting on the commonalities of these stories led us to realize how unique each story is, even in such a specific moment in history. These diverse experiences help us to understand the complexity of the refugee or immigrant experience.
“I know this door”, the thought was almost overwhelming. Somehow I has been mentally catapulted back in time almost 47 years and my brain kept repeating: “I know this door. It belongs here, almost in this position, but not quite…” But, how does one ‘know’ a door?
Refugees and displaced persons who experience war, trauma, violence, or other limiting circumstances are still able to exercise individual agency in a variety of ways, even in situations defined by a loss of control. Czeslaw Tomaszewski, Lynda Dyck, Umeeda Switlo, and her mother Lella Umedaly are all people who were able to exert control in challenging situations, and further exercised their agency by remembering and sharing their life experiences through oral histories.