My Tamil Refugee Story

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Recently the topic of refugees and immigrants have dominated news headlines all over the world.  In light of this, I would like to share my personal immigration story.

Thirty six years ago, my dad left Sri Lanka and never went back.  This was the place of his childhood, the land where he experienced happiness and pain, the home where his mother passed away when he was only a teenager.  This is also the place where he left everything he knew behind in order to try and help his struggling family. He left Sri Lanka with a little bit of money and was forced to move from country to country with the hope of landing some sort of job to help ends meet back at home.

Now to all of those who trivialize the situation many immigrants and refugees face when they decide to leave their home, let me stop you and explain my reality. My father had to commit to sleeping many nights in subway stations and on random trains that took him to unknown countries where he did not understand one word of the language.  He slept on benches in the middle of winter and took random jobs all the time just to earn an extra dollar.

He didn’t know when he would hear from his family and never knew when he would find his next meal. Why? How can anyone believe that immigrants are out to steal their jobs vindictively? Like my father, most immigrants are forced into these types of circumstances because the only way for them to stay afloat is to leave their home behind and try something new.

I can count the number times that I have seen my dad cry on one hand but this changed this year when he went to Sri Lanka with some relatives. When my dad went back to his childhood home, he broke down sobbing, to the point where he could not speak.  He even had to be escorted out of the house because his emotions were too strong. He called me afterwards and told me that in that moment, all the memories of his childhood and everything that he had lost came crashing back.

In my 22 years of living, this was the first moment that I TRULY acknowledged what my parents had sacrificed just to provide me with this sheltered life that I often take for granted. The life they have built for their children was not one they ever started with the hopes of living luxuriously.  They simply did it out of SURVIVAL. So let us all think twice before judging immigrants and refugees without truly understanding the hardships they have to face. Canada was built through the hard work of countless immigrants and through all the ups and the downs, we will always stand proud.

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Author

Vaithiga Karunanithy

Vaithiga Karunanithy

Hello, my name is Vaithiga Karuna and I studied Social Work. I am currently working as a mental health worker.

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