Your Country, Your Story: Memories of growing up in Ladysmith, embraced by the Finnish community

Your Country, Your Story:  Memories of growing up in Ladysmith, embraced by the Finnish community

“So, mum and dad were married in ’47” says Nora Dowsett, as she points to the picture of their wedding in Finland.

Nora explained that her parents decided there was more opportunity by leaving Europe “because Finland, along with most European countries, was pretty beat up after the war.”

Leaving his wife and two toddlers, Nora’s father flew to Canada.

“So, he got off in Montreal, and then took a train across Canada, working kind of here and there, Thunder Bay being one place, and Winnipeg another place, trying to figure out where to settle – and thankfully he made it all the way out here!” Nora says with a smile.

Her father made it all the way to Ladysmith. Which, it turns out, already had a large Finnish community.

“It’s a bit diluted now, after several generations of marrying “non-Finnish’ people, but all of our family friends were Finnish.”

Her father sent for his family, “so mum came out, with two toddlers, by train.”

Nora is the “Canadian sibling,” born in Ladysmith hospital.

Pointing to a picture from Galiano Island, she explains that “our family, along with many other Ladysmith families, used to spend our summers on Galiano Island, at the north end.

“We called it ‘The Gap,’ where Porlier Pass goes through.

“So when the bush was shut down, that’s where we’d spend our summers. Men would fish, and sell some of it, help feed the families.”

Her father taught his kids how to shuck oysters.

Her mom weaved and sold floor mats to make extra money.

And, Nora explains that the Finns got together often, to sauna.

“Oh yeah, if you’re Finnish, you have to have a sauna!” she said with a smile.

“Lots of times it would be ‘your turn’ so other families would come and spend the evening, and take turns having a sauna.”

A passionate gardener, like her mother, Nora Dowsett is grateful that her father discovered Vancouver Island.

“One of the best things is that you can garden twelve months of the year, and that’s a big draw.”

Veronica CooperVeronica Cooper

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