Humans of Toronto: #FamilyIsEverything

By Samantha Frazao

It was the year 1987 when I immigrated to Canada from Portugal. It was me, my brother and my mom. I was 16 and my brother turned 15 that very day. Since the Potuguese airline had very loose rules back in the day, the flight attendant gave both my brother and I a miniature bottle of wine each to celebrate. This would of course never happen today.

Once we landed, my dad met us at the airport. He was living in Canada the past two years to find us a permanent place to live and to work as a bricklayer. We only joined him in ‘87 since we had to go through the immigration process and my father came to Canada illegally.

To this day, I still clearly remember the drive to the place we would call home. I was in awe of the amount of lanes on the 401 and every single one was jam packed with cars. In Portugal, somedays I might only see a dozen cars the whole day. Now I was seeing thousands in one place. These were only the small changes. My parents sacrificed their lives for us to come to Canada in search of a better life. They left all of their friends and family back home and we even left our house behind. We now lived in an average apartment, with hardly any of our other family and found ourselves having to make brand new friends.

My brother and I enrolled at Bloor Collegiate Institute after roughly two weeks of being in this country. We surprisingly assimilated very quickly at our new school. Mind you, the first day, I showed up dressed in blue and green checkered pants and a bright yellow shirt but, after seeing that no one here dressed like that, I quickly ditched my old clothes. There were so many other Portuguese kids who were fresh off the boat just like us and there was so much more diversity here.

My parents never really pushed us into education. They were more the make money and get a job type. We simply needed money to make a living together. My brother and I had our first job at a kitchen in a synagogue. There was no room to contemplate whether we liked or disliked our jobs since it was all about doing what you had to. We continued to work at the synagogue for another three years while balancing school. I learned that if you are willing to work hard and deal with what life throws at you, you will always be okay.

My parents eventually left my brother and I in Canada when I was 19 to go live back home in Portugal. Alone in Canada, we were forced to mature and build a life for ourselves. We met our now wives in high school, later had children, and continue to add chapters to our story. #ImmigrantStory #Sacrifice #BigChanges #FamilyIsEverything

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