How my Romanian dad snuck into Canada

Anytime I think about the story I can only imagine what was going on in their minds. Are we going to make it? Will we die on this ship? Will anyone ever even find us or will we sink to the bottom of the Atlantic?

To give you a bit of background, from a young age I remember my dad always visiting neighboring countries. For those who don’t know, Romania was under a heavy communist regime until the end of 1989. I was born in March 1990, so when Romania opened up to neighboring countries, ‘going to America’ was the dream. 

My dad like most wanted a better life and so he started bouncing around Europe. Getting a taste for what life could be like he and his two brothers (my uncles) linked up with another couple in the port city of Le Havre.  At this point, it’s 1993 and the group is eager to get to America. You know, chasing after that American dream. 

Can’t blame them, can ya? I linked Ceausescu’s Wikipedia. He was the dictator during Romania’s hero communist regime, so you get an idea of what life was just a few years earlier.

Anyways, my dad’s group in Le Havre started poking around the shipping yard. Getting an idea of when the workers’ shifts started and ended, when security did their rounds, where the boats come in from, what flag is hanging off of the boat, etc. After a few months of scoping out the shipping yard, they figured out how to break into the shipping container, when the best time to break through the fence is, what the schedules are like, all that good stuff. 

My dad likes to tell me he had a plan and they kind of knew where they were going… I’m not sure how much of that I buy. I don’t doubt that they were thorough, but I mean, what are the fucking chances they ended up in Canada and not on a ship that just left Canada for China. Anyways, the story continues.

They broke into the teal Maersk shipping container, found a way to keep the doors closed, and after a few hours of waiting, the loaders picked up the container and put it on a Cargo Ship. You know, the huge ships with the hundreds of massive stacks of metal containers that span the entire size of vessel? Yep. My dad with 4 other people broke into one of those and that’s how they embarked on their journey to Canada.

I’m not kidding you. This story is 100% legit. The details are loosy-goosy after nearly 30 years but all of these 5 people are alive and I just think this is too fucking cool to not share with the world.

There was a part of the journey where they hit a crazy storm at sea. The kind of storm whose waves are so big that the vessel had no strength against the mighty ocean. Cargo containers falling by the dozen, cold water everywhere, getting tossed around like a snowflake in an avalanche that was the reality of that storm.

Luckily my dad’s container was one of the last to load and apparently, those ones go near the middle of the ship so they were fine. What did happen though is they ran out of food and clean water. So, what are you to do when you’re in the middle of the ocean on a ship you shouldn’t be on? Steal food from the crew and hope they don’t catch you. They got away with stealing provisions once or twice but they were eventually discovered and they had to be detained

I remember my dad telling me that they didn’t really care they got detained. As a matter of fact, they were better off because they were put in warm cabins, fed, and informed that when they land, CBSA will be taking them into custody.

For a group of immigrants seeking a better life, this was exactly what they were looking for. The shipped docked in Halifax and that’s where CBSA boarded the ship and took my dad, uncles and my dads friends into custody. After interviewing everyone, the governmental authority gave my dad the asylum he was seeking, as well as the other couple. The two people that were turned around were my dad’s brothers. 

My dad was granted landed immigrant status because he had us back home whereas my uncles were much younger just coming along for the ride. About four years later, my mom and I came to this country to join him. He was living in Vancouver at the time, so Vancouver was the first Canadian city I got to experience. That’s a story for another time.

Anyways, I hope you liked this. If it wasn’t for his bravery, I never would have made it to this amazing place.