“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn (1863)
Last March, the Coptic Canadian History Project partnered with the Coptic Museum of Canada (formerly St. Mark’s Coptic Museum) to present “Arrivals and Departures: the Journeys of the Copts and their Artifacts.” We happily shared the history and culture of Canada’s Coptic communities with hundreds of attendees as a part of Myseum Intersections, a city-wide festival of exhibits, events, and interactive community experiences covering a range of historic and contemporary issues.
Attendees were invited to reflect on their journeys, write a short note, and then place it on a mirror for the next participant to reflect and add upon; like ships passing in the night. These ephemeral memories stuck to a mirror only briefly, now transformed to a digital medium and retold, carry with them the experiences of Coptic emigres who’ve come to call Canada home.
“My family arrived in Toronto 40 years ago knowing next to nothing about this country, but seeking a peaceful and better future. Canada has been wonderful to all of us. Professionally, it was hard the first five years. It has been a journey of discovery and extensive networking to find where I could find fulfilling and productive work. I learned that I had to re-invent myself professionally.”
“I am a 28-year-old Canadian Egyptian who loves art, culture, and instant ramen.”
“Cliché: Because my parents wanted me to have a better life.”
“Who am I? A Canadian with deep roots reaching to Egypt, my first homeland and now a land I visit occasionally on vacations. So blessed to have chosen Canada as my homeland. At the age of 24, my first view of SNOW! Hooked! Now a long career as an engineer, children, grandchildren – Love Canada!”
“To live and let live. That is Canada. We came as a family with young daughters to Canada to seek stability and new opportunities and for the freedom to be who we are. Love Canada for its respect of different and various cultures and beliefs.”
“I came to Toronto October 1995 with my husband and daughter. We were living in downtown Cairo so we were impressed with the quiet, less crowded streets! The Church was our refuge here in Canada. It was a place of worship and social activities as well. The Church is still a big part of our lives.”
“Who am I? I am a Coptic Orthodox Canadian. I came to Canadian in 1976 at the age of 8 with my parents and siblings. I grew up in Toronto and within the bosom of St. Mark’s church. I love the balance my parents and church gave me within Canadian society – I am very blessed!”
“Born in Toronto to Egyptian parents, growing up in St. Mark’s in the ‘80s and ‘90s felt like little Egypt. So lucky/blessed to be part of this familial community. Gave me a sense of purpose, belonging, comfort which differed from my school setting. Thank you St. Mark’s.”
“My family came to Canada on September 1993. We called Fr. Marcos from Cairo. On September 20, Abouna sent 2 cars to bring us from the airport, one of them was his own car. Fr. Marcos arranged for us to stay in a hotel for half the price, a deal for all Egyptians who may come in need of this service. The second day, September 21, ’93 Abouna came to our room, sat with us and then took my husband to the welcome house to apply for SIN numbers and OHIP. Abouna also let us store most of our luggage in the church ’till we got an apartment. Abouna asked the hotel to give us a small fridge in our room.”
Anonymous in Toronto, Canada