One of the perks of apartment living is meeting interesting people with life experiences different from your own.
I introduce you to Zoli, my neighbour down the hall.
Zoli came to Canada from Hungary in 1972 at the age of 32. He applied to the Hungarian government for a week pass to Austria, and when the week was up he packed his bag, snuck out of the hotel, and went to the closest european embassy and asked for asylum. He was eventually transported to a displacement camp, where he lived for three weeks until emigrating to Germany. He spoke very little German and no English.
He stayed in Germany for a 1.5 years, learning the language and saving up for his very first car. Eventually he applied to emigrate to Canada.
“Australia and the United States placed restrictions on immigrants–you had to have so much money, live here or live there.” Zoli explained, “But Canada only said, ‘come’. There weren’t the restrictions like in the other countries.”
When I asked him to describe what it felt like, living for the first time in a democratic society, he said “freedom! No-one to tap you on the shoulder and ask you for your papers. You can go anywhere, whenever you want!”
Freedom. How we all take that for granted.
Every Remembrance Day, proud Canadians wear a poppy to honour our veterans, both past and present. Zoli will wear his poppy too, with special pride. He knows what living without freedom is like. “It’s a precious thing, freedom,” Zoli said.
It certainly is.