Last week, I wrote a series of columns about the tangle of red tape facing Roma refugee claimants in Parkdale. There was, as usual, mail.
Many people wrote to offer help, especially to the couple who needed a bed. I steered those offers to the Parkdale Intercultural Association.
I also had a lovely note from Toronto Hydro, offering to look into the peculiarly high bills that have been sent to some of the Roma living in the high-rises along Jameson Ave.
There was other mail.
This, from a guy who lives in Parkdale and works for an investment firm; the only editing I have done is to turn his note into paragraphs:
“I’m a resident of Parkdale and getting a little tired of your bleeding heart for the Roma people or any other immigrant/refugee person that comes to Canada/Toronto for a new start or to escape.
“Aside from old issues that have plagued Parkdale for the last 20 years we now have to deal with gypsies (sic). Unless you live in Parkdale please consider all sides. From the late night drunk fests that go on in the park across the street from us or simply walking up the street on a nice day getting hounded by “drunk rift raft” (sic) sitting on the church steps, which is right next to a City of Toronto day care.
“I’m tired of the crap that gets printed in the Toronto Star. Please tell me why are these people not in Rosedale or Forest Hill or any other “elite” area of the city? Why are there 2 Intercultural Associations within 3 blocks on Queen Street? Why are all the “wrong people” just dumped in Parkdale? If you want to know Parkdale, try speaking to an honest employed person who is a property owner that lives in Parkdale full time. I’m free anytime. My parents came here with nothing/received nothing and yet managed to make a pretty good life for themselves. Please tell me how was that possible?
“I don’t mean to rant but as I said at the start I’m tired of reading crap. If your (sic) ever free and would like to get a ‘true view’ you have my email and contact information.”
Oh, I think I have his true view. I’m also betting that his boss doesn’t know he uses company time, and the company email system, to send out this sort of ill-informed nonsense.
The antidote? It comes from another guy in the neighbourhood, one who lives across the street from what used to be a crack house, and is now occupied by a family of Roma. I have edited his note for length:
“I was building a new fence in our front yard yesterday. One of the Roma men was out front. I said hello in Hungarian. He responded by coming across the street. He does not speak many words of English. I realized that he was trying to ask me how I was going to build the fence. I began to do show him what I was doing.
“He stepped right in and started to work along with me. It became obvious that he knew what he was doing. Halfway through the work, he said ‘Moment,’ walked back to his apartment, and returned with his son. His son did the rest of the pounding. They worked so well together, both very skilled.
“We had a wonderful time, me teaching them some English, and they teaching me some Hungarian. After a while, the older man took my wife by the hand and led her across the street into the apartment. He returned and said, with a smile on his face, ‘food.’ Half hour later, my wife returned with two plates covered in foil, one with cabbage rolls, and one with cake.
“My wife told me to eat some in front of the guys so they’d know that I liked it. The food sent me over the moon. I grew up with a Hungarian mother, so I know good cabbage rolls. I said ‘Yo,’ loudly several times, which means good. They both laughed. Then we finished the fence, which I had planned to build over two days.
“At the end of the afternoon, we asked if we could pay them. They said no, shook our hands, and walked across to their apartment. Such lovely, generous people. I want to find a way of helping them.
“It would be wonderful if there were a contractor who could take them on, knowing that they do not speak English, but are great workers. Any ideas?”
There, in a nutshell, is the ignorant yin and the generous yang of my beloved Parkdale. And so I repeat the question my friend poses on behalf of his neighbours, who are both skilled and looking for work.