Cousins! Growing up on a farm in southern Ontario, our cousins were so important to my childhood. And even though I moved away to British Columbia after University, my cousins remained a constant in my life. Some of my cousins I know more than others, but that was mostly due to geography. The ones furthest away lived in Dartmouth Halifax, others lived up near Collingwood, Ontario, another family lived in Windsor, Ontario. My cousin Lynda lives in California and lived due south from me in Vancouver and for a time we saw each other quite often. I got California as a bonus and she got Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler.
Last September 2011, we cousins had a Barzo family reunion in Waterloo hosted by Uncle Jim’s kids. We looked at old family photographs and the ships’ register from Pier 21 in Halifax where the Barzo family arrived in 1930. We talked, laughed, reminisced, met new members of the family either through marriage or babies and toddlers who recently came into this world, and caught up on each others lives. And of course there was fabulous food. We are Hungarians and we love to eat! It was a lovely setting in my cousin David’s big backyard, with tables set among the tall shade trees. It couldn’t have been a more perfect late summer afternoon. We made new memories that day.
The original Barzo kids – Julia, Mary, Simon, John and Joe are all still with us, but we lost Jim several years ago. Our parents are getting older and 3 are now living in care homes. Unfortunately none of the older generation could make it – they just ain’t as young as they used to be!
Luckily, there was another mini-reunion and the original Barzo kids, except John, got together around Christmas time. The room was filled again with their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and my cousins. More stories were told and we again looked at the old family photo albums, mostly of black and white snapshots taken by cameras on film and developed in a laboratory. Pictures are now digital, can be instantly viewed right on the camera, sent via internet and posted on the world wide web.
These old folks have seen many changes in the “new country” and they kept up with all the changes through necessity and with the help of the younger generations. They may not know too much about this ‘new fangled’ global digital world, but that doesn’t matter because they lived it.
They travelled half-way across the world from Hungary, first by train to Germany, then by ship to Halifax where they again boarded a train east to Toronto, changed trains and travelled north to Hunta to connect with Mihaly (Mike) Barzo, my grandfather. The last part of the trip was made by horse and wagon into the wilds of Northern Ontario to a tiny stone house.
My grandmother Ursula had four kids in tow, including my Dad Simon who was a toddler of two, carrying a few belongings and perhaps $20.00 in cash. My grandmother had been ready to turn back to Hungary when they were still in Nova Scotia because as far as she could see, it was an empty, forested land. She must have cursed under her breath at her husband for bringing her family here. But stay they did and year after year their lives improved. It wasn’t easy and it took many hard years of work including many lean years when this family of eight had to make do with very little and sometimes went hungry.
Thinking about all these things is at times unimaginable, but the group picture that hangs in my Dad’s room taken that day, shows a happy family that made a new life in Canada – true pioneers. Here’s to Mihaly and Ursula Barzo, my family and of course my cousins. Let’s keep the memories alive, keep making new ones and remember how we got here.
Note: the spelling of our family name changed at some point from Barzso to Barzo.