|Antelopes in the Prairie in Southern Alberta Betwenn Medicine Hat and Calgary|
In Canada Since 1960
Translation from German to English by Dr. Elvire Necker-Eberhardt
Article appeared originally with German text written by Dr. Elvire Necker-Eberhardt in the Jahrbuch der Deutschen aus Bessarabien: Heimatkalender 2005, Landsmannschaft der Deutschen aus Bessarabien, Stuttgart, Germany, 2004, Pages 201-202
In Spring 1960, we immigrated from Schwaebisch Hall, Germany, to the oil and wheat province of Alberta in Canada. Our city is called Medicine Hat and today has a population of 53,000. It is situated 60 miles north of the American border and 180 miles east of Calgary, a city of nearly 1 million that hosted the 1988 Olympic winter games. For immigrating and getting established, the early 1960’s was the perfect time and Canada the right country. At that time we had neither unemployment nor inflation. The oil and gas industry was starting to boom, and wheat growing was greatly advanced through irrigation. Our Canadian wheat was requested everywhere and the world needed oil and petroleum products.
The great immigration of Europeans into Canada actually had already ceased, so the country welcomed us as an individual family with respect and open arms. Here in Western Canada, many Canadians had only recently been immigrants themselves and so they were most sensitive and helpful to newcomers. Most of the inhabitants of Medicine Hat were of German descent anyway; most like we of German descent from outside Germany. Also at that time, Canada needed every working person it could get. And, if somebody had learned something (OR And, if somebody was well educated????), he was especially welcome.
We were heartily accepted in Medicine Hat, which then was the size of Schwaebisch Hall where we had come from. Still, we had to get used to many new things. Now we were in a prairie city, whose culture and hygiene were rather primitive. This could also be said of Canadian products. Then there was this great empty vastness. Medicine Hat and Calgary are 180 miles apart, with only 4 smaller villages and towns in between. Therefore, in the beginning we felt very isolated and lonely. The prairie has no trees; it is filled with cactus and rattlesnakes. Rain seldom occurs, so our umbrellas were quickly packed away. In the 1960s we still had long and bitterly cold winters. From the end of October to the end of April, the snow did not go away. It was something you had to get used to. In addition, of course, was the language; everything was in English. If ever we heard German or the wonderfully sounding Swabian, our heart would warm up. Then we realized what we were missing having left our homeland.
The most difficult thing of all was making friends. Canadians are very friendly, but for a true friendship you need more than that. Slowly, with the acquisition of the language, we got adapted to our new home and society. Canada is not a melting pot like the USA characterizes itself. Our country is instead a mosaic of peoples and cultures. Slowly we realized how blessed we were with this great ethnic wealth, seen through the many ethnic festivals and clubs, with the varied restaurants, customs and exhibitions. Now we are so glad that we dared to accept the tremendous challenge of an emigration. Today Canada is a totally different country from the one we met in the 1960s. Culturally, hygienically, and in its clothing, houses, machines or in its agriculture or industry, Canada does not differ in any way from Europe. Perhaps it is even more modern, and everything is definitely more affordable than in Europe, though we also have unemployment, homeless and poor people. The winters are not so cold and long any more. And immigration into our wonderful country has become almost impossible for Europeans. Today Chinese, East Indians and Arabs come to us. Because of this, Canada's ethnic picture has greatly changed. Nonetheless, it has become a desired country for tourists. There is no year when we don't have visitors from "the old Country", i.e. Germany.
(The author and translator wishes to express her appreciation to
Dwayne Janke for the editing of this article).