I emigrated to another continent


Starting all over in another part of the world and feel just as settled there as the natives, is that possible? The woman in this week's interview surely love the country she came to as a girl. No doubt where she has her heart although she will always remember her birth country with joy. Read about her interesting story.

Name: Andrea (Andy) Mary Strachan (nee Hyams)

Age: 70

Occupation: Retired B&B owner, legal assistant

Family: I am single with two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter and two grandsons. My brother passed away in 1977 due to a drunk driver and my sister, Sue Williams, lives in North Carolina. I have cousins in England and Australia. I believe I am now the matriarch of the family!

Lives in:  Fenelon Falls, Ontario, Canada (the Jewel of the Kawarthas)

You emigrated from England to Canada when you were only a girl. It must have been a huge change in your life.

I don't remember feeling that moving to another country was a huge change, but more of a huge adventure. I remember my mother being stressed for several months since my father left in May to find a job and a place to live and we didn't leave until August. She was left to pack up our belongings and look after three children (my brother Barry, aged 10, me aged 8 and my sister Susan aged 7). I also remember my aunt being there to look after us and help relieve the tensions in the household. I don't recall being sad leaving friends but was very sad saying goodbye to my grandparents and cousins.

We came over on a ship named the Arosa Sun and it was all fun and games for us children. We were second class passengers but it didn't feel like we were treated as second class. There were wonderful dinners and evenings filled with games and entertainment, we were taken to the kennels where they kept the animals that were being brought over with families, and I also remember having sweets bought for us on special occasions. My brother was unfortunately seasick most of the way over and spent a lot of time in bed. It was an eight day journey.

Upon arriving in Montreal, my mother took us to a place where we were permitted to order a drink of our choice. I had my very first cream soda, something that I still enjoy on rare occasions! My brother ordered a root beer and I told on him, thinking it was not permitted! So much to learn. We took the train from Montreal to Toronto where we were met by my father.

By the time we arrived, dad had a job and a two story apartment for us to move into. He had been living with the people who convinced my parents to move to Canada. We called them aunt and uncle and their children called my parents aunt and uncle. They were best friends in England and used to live across the road from us and my grandparents. I recall having lunch with them right after we arrived and we were eating soup. My aunt asked if we would like crackers with our soup and I said "oh, yes please - let's cross our arms and I'll pull mine with you and you pull yours with Sue"! My aunt realized I thought she was giving us Christmas crackers! I was truly disappointed with soda crackers.

Upon arriving in Canada the one thing I wanted to do right away was lose my English accent so I would fit in. I added an "r" to the end of any word I could. It was how I thought people spoke in my new country. I would even say "Canader". Within a year, I sounded like I had been born here. I made friends easily and at the age of ten had a best friend, who I still see. I celebrated my 70th birthday in May with her and my sister and two other friends I have known for 60 years.

I remember my brother being laughed at because on his first day at school, he wore short pants, something that was expected of school boys in England. My parents eventually relented and allowed him to wear long pants. We quickly assimilated into our new surroundings and we became Canadian citizens in 1961.

Some people who make such relocation say that they are in some kind of middle mentally and never really feel totally connected to neither their old nor their new country. Have you ever felt like that?

I have always felt that Canada was my home. I remember England fondly but my heart is completely Canadian. I left at a young enough age so I never felt that disconnection.

We always sent tapes "back home" to my grandparents and they would send tapes back. Of course letters and photographs were exchanged often and we did have an occasional phone call on special occasions. My grandparents came to Canada once and when my grandfather died, my Nana came on her own on several occasions. My parents went back to England to visit once we were old enough to look after ourselves, with a bit of supervision from friend's parents and neighbours.

My sister visited England several times after she left home. She is well travelled and went back home for my cousin's wedding, to visit my grandparents and take trips with my parents when they went back. I was more into discovering other countries, especially the tropical ones.

You have only been back once, how did you feel seeing your birth country after so many years again?

I am sure it's been said before, but my home town looked very small! I was born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, the home of the longest pier in the world. I went back in 1983 with my second husband, who was sent to England and Germany to open stores and train personnel for his company. We travelled by motorcycle through Germany, Austria, Northern Italy, from the South of France up to Paris and into England and then to Southend-on-Sea.

I got to see the house we lived in, my grandparents' home, the school I went to and of course the pier. Our house was no longer in front of a large open field but surrounded by town homes which diminished its size immeasurably. Funnily enough, my school did not seem to look smaller! Maybe the ghosts of teachers past were still looming large and menacing over it. The town was still pretty much as it was when I left, which surprised me. Not that there were a lot of shops and businesses remaining, but the layout hadn't changed a bit.

The Southend Pier has fond memories for me. My grandfather, Herbert Hyams, was awarded the Order of the British Empire medal from the Queen, for putting on dances on the Pier during WWII. The medal is now in England with my grandfather's brother's family and the paperwork is now in the hands of my youngest son. A fire destroyed much of the pier in 1976 and it was to be closed, but the public demanded it be repaired and in 1984 restoration was completed. I saw the incredible damage done to the beautiful structure. It has gone through several more traumas, including another fire and a ship crashing into it, but it still stands today.

Another fond memory of England was the Kursaal Amusement Park. Although it had closed by the time I went back, the buildings were still there. My biggest memory of that was running through the walkways, bordered by high hedges that had strings of lights all through them. I could not see over the hedges when I was young and it seemed like a true fairyland to me. Those hedges were still there and of course I towered over them.

This year, 62 years have passed since that life changing trip, and you have only been back briefly once. Will you ever return again?

I can honestly say I will not be returning to England for a visit. My health issues will not permit it and if ever I was able to travel again, it would be to somewhere with warm oceans and beaches. England is a huge part of my heritage and ancestry, and I do love finding out about family on the ancestry website. I also occasionally Skype with my cousin Graham and enjoy his English accent and catching up on family matters and British politics that way.

I still buy lottery tickets, so maybe . . . one day . . . I will be able to afford a private plane to go around and pick everyone up and bring them to Canada for a visit!