“Let me Tell you a Story” -- A Symposium of Immigration
Symposium participants (left - right) Niki Lazarova, John Thomas
(CMHS President), Dr.Lillian Petroff, Danny Maleganeas, Joanne
Lynes, Prof. Harry Herman (Men in White Aprons author), and
Dr. Katerina Belazelkoska
We have a diverse community because of the different time periods
in which immigrants landed in Canada from various parts of Macedonia.
For instance those that arrived in the late 19th and early 20th
Century were mostly from the Aegean area of Macedonia. Then wars
and ethnic cleansings forced people to emigrate throughout the 20th
Century. We have immigrants arriving from the Republic of Macedonia
right up to the present day. It is an important part of Canadian
Macedonian Historical Society’s mandate to explore and record
and make known these periods of immigration. Lillian Petroff’s
book Sojourners and Settlers - The Macedonian Community in Toronto
to 1940 (1995) recorded much of this, but this Symposium made it
more “up close and personal” with five speakers that
represented three different periods of immigration by Macedonians
The Canadian Macedonian Historical Society held its symposium on
immigration stories, entitled, “Let Me Tell You a Story…”
on Sunday, November 25, 2007.
The five participants were initially interviewed prior to the event.
Each presented their own material and the audience had an opportunity
to ask questions after each story was told. Three distinct periods
were identified prior to the event:
Turn of the 20th Century to 1945
1945 – 1990
1990 – present day
The first two participants were Joanne Lynes and Katherine Kizoff
Gill. Joanne’s family settled in Welland, which was a nice
change as most of us think that we all came to Toronto, or maybe
Montreal. Many Macedonians settled in small towns at first and some
of them stayed for many years. Macedonians could be found owning
or working in grocery stores, restaurants, playing music, etc. Katherine’s
family’s immigration dates back to 1905 when her paternal
grandfather immigrated from Gabresh, Kostursko. He came to Canada
via Cuba and eventually settled in Toronto.
Danny Maleganeas was the first participant who represented the
period l945-1990. Both of his parents arrived in Canada in the 1950s
and they soon established themselves in Toronto as restauranteurs.
Following his presentation, Niki Lazarova shared her story. After
being a Begaltsi refugee, a chain of life events brought her to
many to countries before finally arriving in Canada in the 1970s.
The final period of immigration was represented by Dr. Katerina
Belazelkoska. Safety concerns prompted the inspiration to leave
the Republic of Macedonia in 2001. She completed her graduate studies
in the United States prior to coming to Canada.
Dr. Lillian Petroff was the perfect moderator for the Historical
Society’s symposium. Lillian was introduced by John Thomas,
the Co-President of CMHS and one of the main organizers of the event.
She described the pre-l945 immigration period along with bits of
oral testimony which she had gleaned from her many interviews for
her book. For example, she related an anecdote about the “Restaurant
Men”, which was quite apropos as we were including the launch
of the reprint of MEN IN WHITE
APRONS by Harry Herman in this event. Lillian noted that one
Macedonian said of his boss who was Greek:
“If they know you’re a Macedonian he kill you. He won’t
let you touch nothing. Won’t let you sit down or have a cigarette
or a coke. You have to pay for it. Pushing you, pushing you.”
She went on to speak about the different eras in which Macedonians
immigrated to Canada.
At intermission folks munched on cookies and sipped Macedonian
tea while looking over the books that were available for sale, including
Men In White Aprons by Harry Herman. They had an opportunity to
have the author sign their copies.
Each of the presenters was unique with their stories and personal
tales. It is important that we record these stories for generations
to come. Sometimes photos are thrown out, and costumes are not valued
by succeeding generations. The Society is a place where they can
reside with dignity and respect.
It is fantastic that the Society was able to document the stories
that made this event possible. We would like to repeat the event
again in the future, with different stories and other perspectives.
We belong to a community of immigrants, and we stand on the shoulders
of those that came before us.
Thanks to Alex Nitsis, who spearheaded the project, the Society
became the publisher of MEN IN WHITE APRONS by Harry Herman and
had the book reprinted. This reprint included some new material
along with added photos of early Macedonian restaurants. Because
of the major sponsorship of the Macedonian Canadian Restaurant Coop,
along with a few others, we were able to complete this project.
We are very grateful for their help and assistance, as this text
documents an important period in Canadian Macedonian immigration
and a certain segment of our early immigrants that were involved
in the restaurant businesses.
© Virginia Andreoff-Evans