Dedicated to Toronto
Moments ago, I was about to sit down to write another installment about my trip to Toronto in February.
But first, I checked the news.
Only a few hours ago, a white van jumped the curb and struck a number of pedestrians near Yonge and Finch, in north Toronto. They don’t know yet how many are dead.
I pictured the busy streets of the city, the gray pavement of the sidewalks. I remembered the constant criss-cross of pedestrian traffic, the sounds of engines and sirens and voices. I remembered the stately buildings, the luminous skyline at night. I remembered the energy of a city full of music and movement and ideas and people.
I grew up across the lake from Toronto, in Rochester, New York. A vast expanse of water both separates the two cities from one another and connects them together.
It is the city of Toronto that houses the words of my great uncle Stefan. The University of Toronto’s Carpatho-Ruthenica Collection, curated by Professor Paul Robert Magocsi, includes five of Stefan’s unpublished memoirs in English, plus a published memoir in Ukrainian, Road to Success.
During my visit, Professor Magocsi graciously provided copies of two of my great uncle’s writings that I did not yet have. The professor had previously mailed me a copy of Stefan’s Ukrainian memoir, as well as copies of their ten-year correspondence.
The letters reveal so much about Stefan’s values and personality. His deep concern for the preservation of the Rusyn culture and language are clear—as well as his aspirations for the political autonomy of the Rusyn people. He felt that preservation of their language is an important step in their eventual achievment of political recognition. This is why he helped support Sunday language classes for children.
He also was motivated by gratitude for the Rusyn family that saved him during the Holocaust.
At the University of Toronto, Professor Magocsi also showed me Stefan’s high school diploma, granted in 1939, when he was nearly 20. It lists his studies of math and science, and Hungarian, Latin, and Russian literature. Stefan once said that the only time his father ever kissed him was when he graduated. The kiss on Stefan’s forehead was a father’s rare and memorable gesture of pride and love.
I’m grateful to Toronto for its role in preserving my family history.
And I’m deeply saddened by today’s violence against innocent pedestrians walking on the streets of a city not far from my home.
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