Canadian Macedonian Historical Society

World Premiere of the Documentary
Friday, May 7, 2004

A world premiere screening of the documentary Just Arrived was presented recently by the Canadian Macedonian Historical Society at the North York Central Library. The expectant crowd sipped on Macedonian tea and coffee. After a welcome by the President of the Society, and the introduction of the director, Sandra Danilovic, the lights dimmed.

Stefan Nikolovski, the Consulate General and staff represented the Republic of Macedonia. Omni Television, the financier of the film, unfortunately was unable to attend. Omni has distribution rights of the film throughout North America, and the world.

The film sparked lively conversation afterwards. There is something electric about having the director available for questions. Two out of the three families that appeared in the film were also present. This was an honest portrayal of experiences of new immigrants to Canada. It was relevant, regardless of where the immigrants were from. Obviously, we are particularly interested because they are Macedonian.

Recent Immigrants from Macedonia, Shown Here, Were The Subjects of the Documentary - "Just Arrived"
Recent Immigrants from Macedonia, Shown Here,
Were The Subjects of the Documentary - "Just Arrived"

Their professions ranged from electro-technical engineer and a math/ computer teacher. (These are skills that Canada needs.) Also there was a nurse and veterinary technician, who also has been a music DJ for many years in Macedonia. They all knew that one had to become qualified, especially in the medical fields, but there should be more realistic information conveyed to the prospective immigrants, so that they are very clear about their expectations and the realities they will face. The reality is that two years of re-qualification studies for dentistry costs $45,000 tuition per year!

Sonja has had eight years of dental schooling in Macedonia, and her husband has more than seven years experience as a Physiotherapist. With this kind of experience, she approached a dozen Macedonian dentists. It was very discouraging. All she wanted was an opportunity to observe, with no pay, the Canadian methods, etc. She later learned that one could work as a dental technician, without being re-qualified. After a lot of closed doors, a dentist, who not unlike Sonja faced the same kind of situation years ago, was able to give her an opportunity and a job. She was not a Macedonian.

Granted it was a lot worse for immigrants years ago, but the prevailing attitude they found in the Macedonian community was "we had it tough, so you can tough it out too!" For those who came to Canada 40 to 60 years ago, it was extremely tough. In the 40's when they tried to rent a place, there were signs saying: "No foreigners". However, that was then, and now is now. A helping hand eases the way, anytime it is given.

As a community we need to look at the services, or lack of, for our immigrants. We have university-trained immigrants that are begging to have their skills used by Canada. Apparently, there is an organization, in its infancy, which is trying to help recent Macedonian immigrants. The organization meets in St. Clements's Church.

Virginia Evans and Sandra Danilovic
Virginia Evans (left), of the CMHS, Thanks Director, Sandra Danilovic (right)

The documentary also pointed out flaws in the Macedonian government, and the reasons for leaving well-paid jobs and family. I sincerely hope that Ms. Danilovic is able to have this documentary presented in Macedonia as well. Some of the problems are systemic and could use this kind of "looking glass".

Documentaries are meant to expose different points of view, and do not have the artificiality of "reality shows". The documentary reflected views and experiences at the time of the filming. Of course, after a year in Canada, they will have a different perspective. However, many in the audience were in tears, as they remembered their own experiences when they first pulled up roots, and decided on moving to another country, culture and new language. Most of these immigrants had at least a working knowledge of English.

The couple in Winnipeg is moving to Ontario; either Windsor or Toronto, depending on where they find work. Unfortunately, they were sold a bill of goods by the Manitoba government that was less than candid. Canada and/or the provinces must communicate clearly and concisely at the ambassadorial or original application level in the country of origin so that immigrants do not have unrealistic expectations. This experience is being repeated with skilled immigrants from a number of countries, not just from Macedonia.

Sandra Danilovic, director, producer and writer of Just Arrived was born in Skopje, attended much of her schooling in Canada, with a BFA from York University. This is her second major documentary. The first was Portrait of a Street - the Soul and Spirit of College, depicting several early immigrants to College Street, in Toronto. Her father, Zoran Danilovic, was the cinematographer for both documentaries.

A good documentary evokes thoughtful conversation and even controversy. Just Arrived is honest with no punches pulled, or honey coating-- excellent work by Sandra Danilovic.

Applause for Director, Sandra Danilovic, and Her Documentary - "Just Arrived"
Applause for Director Sandra Danilovic and Her Documentary - "Just Arrived"


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