A Whole New World
By Fran Watt
June 3, 1997
"After the end of World War Two, Sergio Holobrosky left the only home he ever knew and travelled to face a new continent, country and culture on his own and start a new life here in Canada. Like so many others from that time, he has had to face a language barrier as well as a culture barrier which has prevented him from enjoying much of what Canada has to offer. He never married, and has no children. He also has no family left.
Sergio, or Serge as he is called, was born in the Ukraine on July 7, 1923. He grew up in Kiev, with his parents and a brother and managed to travel to places like Siberia and Russia, as well as other parts of Europe. He was lucky enough to attend our equivalent of high school before the war began. During the war, he was forced to enter a war camp, while his brother went off to fight as a soldier. He stayed in a work camp near Vienna, Austria. He tells about how the German soldiers would bathe and swim in the warm water of Vienna’s fountains, especially in summer, and the children would watch them and wish that they could play there also.
After the war he returned home to Kiev. His brother returned also, and married, but he later died of tuberculosis. Serge was given the opportunity to immigrate to a new country. He fought with the decision to immigrate to either Canada, Brazil, or the USA. After weighing the pros and cons, he finally made his life-altering decision and chose Canada, because the climate was similar to that of his home in Kiev.
When he immigrated to Canada, after spending time in Montreal, he moved to Toronto, and found a place to live in the Spadina and College area. He got a job as a porter at the renowned Royal York Hotel, and worked there his entire life. While he was working there, he got the chane to meet all kinds of different people. He even had the chance to meet a few famous people who stayed there while in town. He spent his free time doing what many other people living in the city did at that time, like sailing, taking the ferry out to the islands, and later, seeing all of the city’s attractions. He also took the time to travel across Canada to see everything in what he calls, “This beautiful country”.
After retiring from the Royal York, Serge decided to follow so many other retirees and move to Florida. He settled down in Fort Lauderdale, and spent a few years enjoying the warm weather, sun, and everything else that Florida has to offer.
Why, do you ask, did he come back to Canada after living in sunny Forida? Well, he decided that after growing up in the Ukraine, and spending all his adult life in Canada, the weather in Florida was just too hot for him. A friend convinced him that the Bruce Peninsula was just so beautiful, that he had to live here. So Serge packed up and moved in with his friend somewhere up the peninsula, close to Tobermory. Sadly, about five years ago, his friend died. Serge was alone and had nowhere to go, so he moved into Gateway Haven.
Although in Gateway Haven, Serge hasn’t slowed down. AS well as being known as a bit of a flirt around Gateway Haven, he also has many friends, although I’m not sure whether they understand what he is saying. He spends his time working in the many gardens at Gateway, taking care of all the plants. He also cares for several plants inside the home. Other times he works in the craft room, and creates many different projects. The rest of his time is spent helping the staff, and visiting his friends. Serge has a reputation of being very friendly and helpful with the staff there, and everyone knows him. He was even crowned the Groundhog Weekend Senior Citizen King in 1994.
Unfortunately there is still a language barrier even today. Although Serge speaks some English, he has a strong accent as well as problems with some works, and I think that scares some people away. But that doesn’t stop him from being friendly to everyone, and always having something nice to say. He always has a smile on his fae and is always happy to see you. He is always glad to teach anyone a little Ukrainian. Everyone who meets him always has something nice to say about him in return.
Although he has many friends at Gateway Haven, he leads a very lonely life and misses out on a lot. The fact that he has no family left only increases his loneliness. He really doesn’t get out very much anymore so he jumped at the chance to be in the friend-to-friend program. He always wants to hear about what is going on in town, and wants to show you what is going on in his life. Somehow he always has fruit and candies that he gives to everyone and he won’t let you go until you take them.
This program was an enlightening experience for both of us. We both got something out of it. The visits were usually the highlights of his week, with very few exceptions. He is pretty spry for his age and compared to many people there, he looks like he is running a race. For the most part, he is pretty bright although he had a few bad spells. One visit he forgot we were coming, and then just wandered and rambled the entire time. This program definitely did him some good, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet him and enrich his life. In a way, both he and the whole experience enriched my life too."
From An Anthology of Stories the EWR4A and Gateway Haven Friend-to-Friend Programme