Jodi Abbott’s Story

by Jodi Abbott

I am second generation Canadian. My grandparents, on my father’s side, are Romanian and Ukrainian and my grandparents on my mother’s side are from Britain and Scotland.

The bravery of my grandparents created an opportunity for my future….

My grandparents on my father’s side left their home counties under duress. They would not share their journey with us but I began to understand the story late in my grandmother’s life. I recall visiting my grandmother when she was receiving respite care at the age of 90 years. She was not happy with her short stay in an Edmonton based care facility even though she was getting great care. As a result, she kept trying to leave the facility and make her way home to Edson.

When packing to take my grandmother home I uncovered her story. Grandma had taken a pair of sweatpants and stuffed toilet paper, Kleenex, a small amount of money and clothing into the legs of the trousers. She had carefully pinned the waist band to secure her items. When I asked her why she was packing this way I learned of her escape from the Ukraine. When she was a young woman she made a very difficult decision to leave her home country due to the dire circumstances she was under in hopes of a better life in Canada. At 90 years old, she was reliving her escape and shared with me that she left much of her family and her home country with all of her belongings on her back crossing the Atlantic to Canada. Eventually her and my grandpa made their way West when Grandpa Gelmici secured employment with the railway. This brought them to the Coal branch and later to Edson where they established a watch making and jewelry store Gelmici Jewellers. As settlers and entrepreneurs my Grandpa and Grandma established their family and their future. Gelmici Jewellers exists today after some 70 years in business.

So, when I come to work as President & CEO of NorQuest College, I often think of my grandparents struggles. Their story is replicates the stories of our students who come from around the world for a better life in Canada. I am thankful for my family’s persistence to achieve freedom and to secure a home for future generations. It is my goal at NorQuest College to ensure that new Canadians, particularly our students, have every opportunity to learn our language, share their cultures and lessons with us and engage as productive and community minded Canadians.

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