Lions Manor resident recalls journey to becoming Canadian
Michael Biro, 85, and a resident at Richmond Lions Manor-Bridgeport, remembers exactly when he became a Canadian citizen.
“It was March 1, 1962…The judge told me to remember one thing; that I am a Canadian now and responsible for this country just as much as he is,” recalled Biro. “I have never forgotten that.”
Born in Hungry, Biro and his wife, then fiancé, lived through the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, the nation-wide revolt against the government of the Hungarian People’s Republic and its Soviet-imposed policies.
At one time active in the Hungarian Army, Biro, then 25, was encouraged to flee his homeland for fear of imprisonment under invading Russian forces. Heeding the advice, the Biros fled the city of Gyal at 2 a.m. with only the clothes on their back. After three days of travel by foot, they arrived safely to Austria, making their way to Canada in 1957.
“I escaped through the window as the Russians were coming through my front door,” recalled Biro who can still hear this mother’s cries of “Not my son. Not my son.” Biro’s first stop before leaving Gyal for good was at his awaiting fiance’s house where she was waiting in her bed, fully dressed. “I knocked on her window and gave her a choice, east or west? She chose west.”
New country; new opportunity
Biro didn’t know much about Canada, but heard from a neighbour that it was a new country and needed immigrants with grit, determination and a desire to build a country. “I knew it was where we should go,” he said.
The Biros landed first in Halifax, making their way up to Sudbury, Ontario where they had been introduced via letter to another Hungarian family. They made a home, and Michael found work quickly as a tool and die maker at Northern Steel. After brief stints in Toronto, the Biros moved to BC, and eventually to Richmond.
Although Biro doesn’t consider himself a poet, he wrote the following words to express his pride at becoming a Canadian citizen. It means as much to him today as it did 60 years ago.
Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!
Would you have guessed Canada is a spring chicken?
For that age this country flying like a super-sonic jet
So let’s give it a boost and sing our best
Happy birthday Canada, and raise the flag
Let’s give the Army, Navy and Air Force a salute
We know nothing will stop or obstruct you
Join the big celebration country-wide
Wishing you a great happy birthday, Canada
Of all the greatest countries, ours is the best
Patriotic, gracious, welcoming
We keep our eyes open if enemies approaching
Happy birthday, Canada, we welcome all friends
No one said it’s easy to be a Canadian
But the price to pay to become free, anywhere
So we should defend what they gave us
Proudly chant happy birthday, Canada
Since I became a Canadian I do my best
To show the newcomers how to live in the west
Maple leaves are flying high indicates our welcoming
Happy birthday, Canada!