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HENRY ALBAN

KAZAKHSTAN
Photography by David Amoils
 

Henry and his parents arrived in Canada in 1949 on a ship called the General Black. His mother was pregnant with her second child during the voyage. The family spent the war years in Siberia and arrived in Montreal in March 1949. When his mother saw the snow in Montreal, she said to his father, “I didn’t leave Siberia to come to this. Take me to Toronto.” And so he did.

His parents were born in Tarnow, Poland and met on the beach when his mother, Sala, was 16 years old. His father, Samuel, was nine years older but fell in love with her, a beautiful young girl. In order to earn their living, they sold goods across the Russian/Polish border. When the war broke out, they were caught by the Russians as the Germans were invading, and they couldn’t return home. They married in the U.S.S.R. in 1941. They got married five times because each time people would give them extra food to celebrate their wedding. During the war, they were in a work camp in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan, where Henry was born in 1945.

After the war, they returned to Poland to see who was still alive. His father found two of his sisters and one had a boy who was close in age to Henry. The cousins remained friends all their lives. Henry’s aunt had another boy, but the Germans had taken that boy when he was a baby and killed him. The rest of their extended family was able to get to New York, but not Henry’s family. However, his mother heard that they were taking tailors in Canada, and as that was his father’s profession, they filled out papers and were brought here by a Jewish agency. Henry has two younger sisters who were born in Canada.

Henry became a dentist and met Ellen Kelner. They were introduced by mutual friends. Ellen and Henry married in 1969 and have two children and four grandchildren.

Henry feels that Canada is utopia and is grateful that his family came to Canada.