Sylvia Hill: Being Welcomed into Vancouver Jewish Community by Fannie and Peter Segall
Date:Tuesday, July 30, 2002
ID:Digital audio recording #: 20.02-04
JB: Sylvia, where were you born?
SH: I was born in Calcutta.
JB: And when were you born?
JB: Who were the first of your family to come to Canada and why?
SH: We were the only two, my husband and I.
JB: And what’s your husband’s name?
SH: George Augustus Hill.
JB: Okay, and why did you guys come to Canada?
SH: We came after the war and because my husband knew Canada as a child. He came when he was a boy of 15 from England and worked on farms here. And he always loved Canada. So then he went back to England after the war years and it was so drab and so difficult. And I came from a home that was fairly affluent and I didn’t do much work, house work or anything. So he said, “Look, let’s go to Canada. You will love Canada.” And so we came over to Canada.
JB: And where did you come at first?
SH: We came over at a time where England froze our money. 1948. England froze all our money and we came to Canada with 10 pounds. That was all the money we had. And my life really began here. I began to learn what it was to cook, to scrub, to wash. And really began life because before that we always had help.
JB: And did you come straight to Vancouver or?
SH: No, we stopped over at New York because I had relatives there. We visited for a while, borrowed money from my cousin, and then we came straight on to Canada. Very fortunately, very lucky, we met a family—this is interesting—we met a family when the train stopped at Regina. And an old gentleman was coming up to the train to get in. I was very pregnant, I was nine months pregnant. And he saw me standing in the doorway and he said, “Shalom aleichem [Hebrew greeting],” to me. I said, “Aleichem Shalom.” He said, “I knew you were Jewish.”
SH: Just like that, I’d never met this gentleman before. And we started talking. And my husband who is never very far from me ever, he said, “Why not ask the gentleman into the compartment and talk to him rather than standing in the doorway?” So we did. He asked us if we knew anyone here. No. Had a doctor here. No. Relatives here. No. He says, “[Where are] you taking your wife?” So he said, “Now I’m going to telegram my sister in Vancouver and she’s going to meet you.”
JB: Do you remember what her name was?
SH: Yes, Fannie Segall. So Fannie and Peter Segall met us in Vancouver. And right away they came up to us and said, “You’re coming to stay with us.” Hadn’t met them in my life before. Of course my husband he was very, he said, “No I can’t. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. I can’t just come and live in your house.” And he said, “We’re Jewish we can all live.” But he was rather adamant so we stayed in a hotel. But the very next morning Peter was at the hotel. He said, “Your wife is coming to our doctor.” And they looked after us in the beginning and, because I was soon, one week after I was here my baby was born.