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Why I wrote Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story by Hannah Moscovitch

My son Elijah Julian Moscovitch Barry was born in June of 2015. In September, the small body of Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. The photograph of the drowned Syrian toddler had made international headlines. Less hyped on worldwide news outlets was the fact that Alan Kurdi’s aunt (who is Canadian) had been applying for him and his family to immigrate to Canada. But their application was stalled because of severe new immigration restrictions that had were brought in by Stephen Harper’s conservative government. To us, Alan Kurdi was a lost Canadian citizen. His death was our shame. “Shame” was the word I saw on social media the most in the days following the release of that photograph: Canadians were collectively enraged. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took power, a couple of months later, he invited 25,000 Syrian refugees to become new Canadians. 

In September, 2015 – the same September when I’d curled up and cried over the photograph of Alan Kurdi – I went to the museum at Pier 21 in Halifax with my two-month-old son Elijah. Pier 21 is the Canadian version of Ellis Island: it was the port of entry for most immigrants and refugees who came by boat into Canada. In a small office at the front of the museum, staff helped me to locate the dates when my great-grandparents arrived in Canada. They found Chaim Moscovitch first, my great-grandfather, and then Chaya Yankovitch, my great-grandmother. They found the dates they arrived, and the names of the boats they came in on.

Both my great-grandparents were fleeing pogroms.

In that moment, I was standing where Chaim and Chaya had stood when they first arrived in Canada. For them, this place was their point of safety. There was a line between life and death and there, at Pier 21, was where they crossed it. Without this place, there would have been nothing: no family, no generations to come. And I was standing there, in that place, holding my infant son in my arms.

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story
Wed 18 - Sat 28 Sep
Wilton Music Hall
Info and Tickets: www.wiltons.org.uk