“My mum was from East Germany, and Dad from Hamburgh” explains Olympian, Author, and Motivational Speaker Silken Laumann, “and after the Second World War it was a really tough time in Germany, and I think a lot of Germans went to North America. That was the ‘land of opportunity’.”
Silken’s father was just nineteen when he arrived.
“He went back to Germany, fell in love with my mom, and they both came over in the late 1940’s…early 1950’s.”
The family settled in Missisauga, Ontario.
“I don’t think they had a penny in the bank.
“He started a window cleaning business, it became the most successful window cleaning business in Toronto, doing all the highrises.
“It was called Sparkle Window Cleaning.”
Then, Silken explains, came a fateful summer road trip.
“I was I guess about twelve. We did a trip across Canada, in the car, in the Volvo that kept breaking down and overheating…three kids in the backseat!
“And we got to Victoria, and I said to my Dad, ‘this is where I’m going to live’.”
And true to her word, when it was time to head to university, Silken admits with a wide smile “It was the only place I applied, University of Victoria. Good thing I got in! Ha Ha!”
To this day, Silken is grateful to her parents, and to the country that welcomed them.
“I really think, first of all, how brave they were to come somewhere, leave your family, leave all your connections, leave your language. Come, as Germans to a country after the Second World War, where there must have been a lot of resentment.
“So I also think of the forgiveness that must have taken, for so many Canadians who had lost their loved ones in the war, and yet they were welcomed in this country.
“They made a life for themselves in this country. And I feel really, really grateful to them for taking that risk.
“And it really has been the land of opportunity for myself and my siblings” Silken adds, warmly.