Posted by jyuhasz
               PH:         After the occupation of France by Hitler and after Petain established himself in Vichy, Hitler started preparations for invasion of Britain, massing different types of boats and vessels in Dutch and French ports and at the same time started bombing the city of…[phone rings], so my mother who was in France lived in Paris managed to escape from Paris before the Germans occupied however she got stranded in the camps in Toulouse and finally escaped from there and crossed to the French Riviera where she went into hiding from the French authorities and survived the war over there.
               Meanwhile we had a certain legal problem because some of the assets that we had in London were in my mother’s name and therefore we had to straighten out certain things with our lawyers and I went to see our friend, our lawyer, whom I hadn’t seen for quite a few years because he was very active in politics and he was a member of parliament and became the minister of supplies in the Chamberlain cabinet and was kicked out of the cabinet in May 1940 when Churchill took it over. In our meeting he enquired about what happened to us in the last couple of years and in our discussion came the idea that after escaping from Poland I was thinking about emigrating to another country, I wasn’t interested in going to South Africa but I was told that Canada is closed especially for Jews and the same apparently was for Australia. United States had a quota system and the waiting period for Polish born citizens was about two to three years, so just before we left our lawyer, I don’t want to mention names, our lawyer asked me if I was really serious about going to Canada, I indicated my interest and he said he would try, he may be able to do something about it.
               He did apparently, he wrote a letter to the High Commissioner of Canada in London introducing my brother and myself as young Polish Jews, Cambridge graduates, and this letter apparently was sent to Mr. Little the head of the immigration office in London who made an appointment for us one day at nine o’clock in the morning. The meeting was very interesting, very friendly in his office until the moment that in discussion he discovered that we were Jews, at that moment his face changed, he gave us forms to be filled out and to be sent to Ottawa. We did fill out those forms later and the case went to Ottawa, that was July 1940 and we haven’t heard for a couple of months. About a month later a friend of ours went to Canada on government business, he enquired in Ottawa and was told, I don’t know by who but it was indicated that the chances of us getting immigration visa were practically nil.
               Meanwhile the middle of August the real Battle of Britain started, at that time I sent Edwina [Paul Heller’s wife] to Cambridge to stay with some friends of ours from Poland, he was a professor of law at Cambridge University, and I was to travel on weekends spending weekends together with her. My brother sent his wife Sella to Minehead with another group of Polish refugees and also he travelled over there on weekends. About the middle or end of September on a Monday morning when I came to the office I received a call from Canada House, immigration department, that in connection with our application they would like to see us two days later for medical examinations, both families. We arranged those things and that Wednesday we passed the medical examination and another few…about a week later we were notified formally through our lawyers that the Canadian government is willing to allow us to come to Canada as permanent immigrants on certain conditions providing that we will be able to transfer certain amount of funds and to have possibility of starting business in Canada.

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Posted by jyuhasz
SF:          And he, your grandparents were also from London?
AV:         Well my great grandmother was from Wales but they moved to London, so then she was put into service to a Dutch Sephardic family and lived in Amsterdam. She was put into service when she was twelve years old and the cook taught her to read and write. It was a thoroughly Orthodox Jewish home, a Sephardic home and so she had the same pronunciation that we have in our congregation which is Sephardic, and so when I found Jews and they had the Ashkenazi pronunciation it was like different languages and I didn’t understand it. But she had taught me some Ladino that I had learned too but that wasn’t until shortly before she died and we came to Canada the year after when I was 18.
SF:          And that was in what year?
AV:         1949.
SF:          And you went to?
AV:         Halifax, the infamous Pier 21 [laughs], and I’d love to go back and see how they’ve made it into a museum. So we came across by train and even though we’d paid for first class tickets we were put onto a special immigrant train, and we didn’t know we had any choice, we could have stayed overnight and got into Calgary a day earlier than we did because the porters, the staff, all these nice young black fellows that you know, we weren’t used to speaking with—there had been some black people in Wembley where I grew up but they weren’t close, you know, they weren’t part of our life—and they were saying that they had never seen a train so old and weren’t they lucky, “ha ha,” to be given that job! [Laughs]. So they were only on for a day and then they deadheaded back or they got a train back and so they didn’t do the whole trip and we kept getting new people as porters and people.
SF:          And you made your way to Calgary?
AV:         Yes
SF:          Why Calgary?
AV:         Well we had to be sponsored and my father had come from a family where his father’s generation had spread out across the Commonwealth. Well, the thing is that my mother and I thought we were going to go to New Zealand so we spent two and a half years studying New Zealand, we went to illustrated lectures, we had library books and whatever we could find out about New Zealand we were studying. And then immigration was cut off to families because there was a housing crunch and they said only single men can come and my father refused to go on his own because he had left us during the war with no choice and he didn’t like the way my mother was independent when he wasn’t around so he wasn’t let that happen again so my mother said, “Find us another country.” And he went around Trafalgar Square to all the colonial houses and Canada was the best option, but we had contacts—Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, so he wrote to all of these uncles and aunts that he found out where they were and my aunt, his aunt Frances in Calgary...

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Posted by jyuhasz
AC:        And they said that if you want you can go work a physical job. Abe said to me, “If you wanted to go to work with me on the truck…” I went out with him a couple times and I said to myself, “How this man is pulling this heavy drums with copper with things like that, you know.” But he handled this. So I went to, was a guy by the name of Charlie, Charlie…
GA:       Davis?
AC:        Davis. Number 2 Road. Number 2 and 2nd Avenue there. So he gave me a job to cut the copper. There’s a big, like a press, you know, and you had to cut because there were long stretches of copper, some cables, some plates, you know. So I was cutting them and filling up drums, you know. And then would come a big truck to lift them up and wherever they were sending, I don’t know it was not my business. And this was my beginning with him. And then again I went to the hospital to get in my profession [Arthur Chinkis had trained and worked as an x-ray technician in Russia]. I was already talking a little bit because there Charlie…were also people, immigrants, they were from all over the world. Polacks, Hungarian, everybody. But everybody tried to speak English that’s the way of communication. With Charlie I spoke Yiddish, you know, it was okay but with the workers you had to speak English. And at night I went on number 12th and Oak there was…
GA:        The Jewish…
AC:        In the olden days there was a school. That was a school for immigrants, at night, in a trailer…
GA:        Was that on King Edward, King Edward campus?
AC:        On 12th Avenue and…
GA:        Oak.
AC:         Oak Street.
GA:        That’s where King Edward…
AC:        King Edward is 25th Avenue.
GA:        No, no, no, King Edward High School.
AC:        Oh, King Edward High School.
GA:        Yeah and there was across from King Edward was a Jewish Community Centre.
AC:        Yeah, yeah, on 12th Avenue was it, yeah, on Oak Street. So at night I was going there taking courses in English. Made me, writing, reading, conversational, you know. I learned something and I went to this Vancouver General Hospital for an interview. I had my papers, all the papers, you know, everything good papers. The doctor said to me, “Everything is good but you don’t speak too much. You have to communicate with patients. A sick person is coming you have to ask him questions, you have to write it down the story and then do the job, do the x-rays.” I said to the doctor, “I have a suggestion for you and I think you will go for it. Put me for six months in the darkroom. I’ll work in the darkroom.” When you take a picture and go to the darkroom you have to develop it, and then dry it, and then cut the corners, and give it to the doctor to come, and doctors and put on his screen, viewing screen, you know. And he [did]. And that not required too much talking, just work.

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Black and white photograph depicts Jewish Family Service Agency orientation program for Russian immigrants.

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Black and white photograph depicts a happy immigrant family visiting Annette Wigod (right) at the Jewish Family Service Agency. Mrs. Ilya (Golda) Bichin holds 4 month-old Canadian-born Roman, and 6 year old Mark helps in the English reading.

November 17, 1977