MCRC - 30 Years of Fostering New Beginnings

Margaret Chisholm Resettlement Centre

Gradual Integration

- Zeljko Dragicevic

I’m just basically part of the fabric of this place.

It just happened that I came a few months after this place was opened as a client from the Balkans. I was placed in the basement to sleep for the first eight days with no daylight, and still, by sheer accident, I ended up working for the agency a couple of years later.

I found Margaret (then manager of the Division) in the parking lot. I told her that I speak five languages: Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and multiple others, which are the same. It’s the same stuff, just different dialects.

When I came as a client, we had three groups here that were trying to kill each other back home. Serbs, Croats and Muslims. I’m from a mixed marriage. That’s like a fourth category.

So, all these people would come, and they would hate each other because, probably 24 hours earlier, they might have been shooting at each other.

When I started working here two or three years later, similar national groups came from the same country. So, I would come to work as a counsellor, have Serbs, Croats, and different families, and I would take care of them.

The first day, they all go to the porch, because they all smoke. That’s the common denominator. They don’t talk to each other. You can see it on their faces. The second day, they look at each other. The next day, they nod.

By the Fifth day, they make Turkish coffee. The guy who makes Turkish coffee offers it to a guy from a different nationality. So, after seven days, they start talking and having coffee together. They would share coffee until they moved out of this house.

I don’t know what happened when they inhaled the first breath of Canadian air at MCRC, but you could see gradual integration—and it continues to happen even now!

Zeljko arrived as a refugee from former Yugoslavia in 1995. Currently, he is the Facilities Manager of CCIS

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