When we first immigrated to Canada from Holland in 1951, we settled in Toronto. It took some months before we could buy our own home, and our initial accommodations were very primitive – in fact, we lived in an abandoned house which the Jewish community planned to make into a mikveh. But the place was free and it was temporary, so we made do.
We were a family of ten children. I was already twenty years old, and so I went to work, while my younger siblings went to school. The two youngest ones stayed home with my mother – Obi, who was three, and the baby, Amina, who was not quite two at the time.
It was hard on my mother, because the house had no modern facilities and, to do the laundry, she had to boil water in a big pot on the stove, then haul it upstairs to the bathroom which was on the second floor. One day, when she was going back and forth, she returned upstairs to find Amina submerged in the pot of boiling water!
In a panic, my mother grabbed her and she immediately saw that her skin was coming off her. She wrapped Amina in a sheet, and rushed her to the Hospital for Sick Children. I don’t know how she managed this, because she didn’t speak English, but she ran out into the street screaming, and people helped her.
Later that same day – which was Thursday, November 22, 1951 – I was sent to the hospital to talk to the doctors because I was the only one in the family who was fluent in English, having attended the Bais Yaakov seminary in London. The doctors’ prognosis was grim. “Tell your parents that there is no hope,” they said. “This child is going to die. She is not going to live out the day.” (more…)