Kathy Woodgate

I am a refugee – by Kathy Woodgate

I’m a refugee.

I was 13 years old when my parents escaped Poland, days before martial law was declared. Days before military tanks moved in to impose nightly curfews.

My parents planned the escape for months knowing what they needed to do to keep us safe. Instead of promised Italian vacation we ended up in Vienna, Austria declaring refugee status at a local police station. We were transported to a refugee camp in  Traiskirchen. We spent a year with thousands of other refugees seeking safety and peace. A year of sleeping in military bunk beds without bedding in a room smaller than my current kitchen. A year of communal washrooms infested with rats. A year of eating disgusting  meals from a metal dish. A year without school. Traiskirchen was nick named the Hilton of all refugee camps. The most ‘luxurious’ of them all and the last stop before the final ‘placement’. Placement in THE promised land. Our promised land turned out to be Canada (thank goodness!). After a long flight we arrived in Montreal. None of us knew English or French. The adults were apprehensive, children were tired and scared. I cannot imagine being DENIED entry to my new home.

My story is nothing comparing to the stories of others. Stories compared to refugees escaping war zones. Stories of refugees spending YEARS in refugee camps with horrific inhumane conditions. But it is my story. Today I’m sitting in my beautiful home with my beautiful family. We are safe. We are healthy and happy. Today I am heartbroken for all refugees who are affected by Trump’s executive order. I am horrified about the consequences of his idiocy.

I am a refugee.


Kathy Woodgate is a life-long friend of mine.  I remember we met in our very early 20’s and her Polish accent was thick.  She told tales of her travels and has always been driven to be a great Canadian.  A parent, a professional and a refugee.

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5 Comments

  • Reply Eric Westra January 28, 2017 at 11:51 am

    Great piece.

  • Reply Wendy Beckett January 28, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Bless you for sharing this. So many of us emigrated here without any problems, it was so easy and we had no idea how lucky we were….until now. The world has lost all reason and become very scary. I am glad now to be old and pray my children and grandchildren will continue to appreciate Canada.

  • Reply Wendy Vreeken Banham January 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Wonderful story! Let’s hear more positive stories like this!

  • Reply Shea January 29, 2017 at 1:41 am

    As always I appreciate the words written here but today particularly important. Let’s have some perspective here. And be grateful.

  • Reply jennjilks February 7, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Canada is doing better. Thank goodness.

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