It isn’t nice of Canada not to take them in…

My mother called. She calls every morning to tell me that she is still alive. I am grateful for those morning calls. She is ninety and still curious. This morning she called and asked me about what is happening in Hungary. You see, she was born in Hungary; she had her youth stolen in Hungary when she was shipped to Auschwitz. She spent her early adulthood in Hungary working under communism. She and my father and I experienced the Hungarian revolution in 1956. In the larger centres like Budapest, the revolution was for noble reason, freedom, justice and truth. In the little town where we lived, the nightly mob’s chant was “kill the commies, kill the Jews.” They decided once was enough. They decided to escape.

We left our town, along with other Jews in a packed train. The train was stopped on the way to the border by the secret police. They confiscated our papers and ordered us off. My father somehow, in the chaos, managed to blend in with the secret police and as my mother and I were being shoved off, my father grabbed us and shoved us into the train’s bathroom and stood guard there all the way to the border town. We paid smugglers, who in the middle of the night led us through a forest, towards No Man’s Land. We spent the night walking through a scrubby forest, wading across streams, sliding down steep railroad embankments and crawling through sucking No Man’s mud.

We arrived in Austria to welcoming locals who greeted us with tea and bread. My mother reminded me of this because she was watching the images of Syrian refugees trying to sneak across barbed wires into Hungary. She saw the chaos in the railroad station in Budapest and it reminded her of our attempt to escape to freedom. She saw the police trying to herd them into fenced off areas. She wanted to know why they were being treated this way. And then she saw the picture of the dead child lying on the shore with the water gently lapping at his forever still form. She said her heart was heavy. She didn’t understand what was going on.

I tried to explain what was going on, how they were fleeing the war in Syria and how they were trying to get to a safe haven, but because most of them didn’t have documentation, European countries, many with “nationalist” right wing attitudes (like Hungary), were afraid to let them in.

Knitting a brighter future for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Photo: UK Department for International Development.

Knitting a brighter future for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Photo: UK Department for International Development.

She reminded me how we didn’t have documents and how we weren’t wanted. She reminded me how Canada took us in without papers, and how within a month or two, we were in Canada experiencing one of its coldest winters. She loved the freezing freedom. She has never stopped saying how she loves Canada and its peoples’ welcome and the opportunities that it gave us.

She also wanted to know where Syria was and who the Syrians were. I told her they were mainly Arab Muslims and Syria is in the Middle East and the Canadian government was not very welcoming to them. My mother said. “I don’t know if they’re my enemy but my heart goes out to them and it’s not nice of Canada not to take them in. It’s not Canadian to not let them in.”

Endre Farkas


Endre Farkas, a poet, playwright and novelist, was born in Hungary and escaped with his parents in 1956. He has published ten books of poetry, had three plays produced and his novel Never, Again (about the 1956 uprising) is due out in Fall of 2016. His videopoem, cowritten with Carolyn Marie Souaid, “Blood is Blood” won first prize at the Berlin International Poetry Film Festival in 2012. The poet lives in Montreal. 

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