Walnut Voyage - Arrival at Pier 21
21 was a passenger terminal in the
Nova Scotia, Canada. It was used to receive immigrants
during the years 1928 to 1971. In
fact, over 1.5 million immigrants and Canadian military personnel passed through
its doors. It was transformed
into a National Historic Site and Immigration
Museum in 1999 and has just become Canada's
newest national museum.
Prime Minister announced the following on June 25th, 2009:
Canada’s newest national museum at Pier 21
Pier 21 to
serve as monument to the role immigrants have played in Canadian history
Halifax landmark Pier 21 will be the site of Canada’s newest
national museum, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced today.
The new national museum will be dedicated to recognizing and
celebrating the contributions of immigrants and new Canadians to
Canada’s culture, history and heritage.
“No country in the world has benefited more than Canada from free
and open immigration,” said the Prime Minister. “In every
region and across all professions, new Canadians make major
contributions to our culture, economy and way of life. It takes
a special kind of person to uproot and move to a new country to ensure
a better future for your family. Anybody who makes the decision
to live, work and build a life in our country represents the very best
of what it means to be Canadian.”
Currently a national historic site, Pier 21 served as a primary
gateway for immigrants to Canada from 1928 to 1971. It was the
point of entry for more than a million new Canadians over that period.
It was also the point of departure for 500,000 troops who fought for
Canada during the Second World War. As a result, one in five
Canadians can now trace a relationship to this historic site.
“The story of Pier 21 is intertwined with the story of Canada,”
said the Prime Minister. “Creating a national museum at Pier
21 is a fitting monument to Canada’s values and the role immigrants
play in our country’s history.”
The Government of Canada, Pier 21 Society, Pier 21 Foundation and
Halifax Port Authority are partnering to support the new national
museum at Pier 21. This will be just the sixth national museum
in Canada and only the second national museum outside of Canada’s
National Capital Region.
June 25, 2009
Halifax, Nova ScotiaSource:
the Prime Minister
June 25, 2009: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
announces that Historic Halifax landmark Pier 22
will be the site of Canada's newest national museum.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
concluded is June 25th, 2009 announcement by paying homage to this
special place with the words of the late J.P. Leblanc from his "Ode
to Pier 21". He quoted:
I am the platform that processed kings, queens, princes and paupers,
intrepid pioneers, detainees, inadmissibles, lost souls, the penniless,
the threadbare, refugees from tyranny, oppression and revolutions, and
displaced peoples. Each sought land, hope, harmony, liberty;
I greeted them all."
Source: Office of
the Prime Minister
Harper's Full Speech - June 25th, 2009.
as the “Gateway to
Canada”, the Pier
21 Museum commemorates the Canadian immigration experience by
sharing the stories of a multitude of immigrants arriving at Canada’s
doorstep. Through Pier 21, a
visitor has access to over 2,000 immigration stories, 500 oral history
interviews, 700 donated books, 300 files and thousands of archived
images and document
Passengers of the S.S. Walnut stepped through
these doors now known as the “Gateway to
Canada” on December 13th, 1948.
A large banner read "Welcome to Canada."
Be sure to visit
the Walnut display at the museum and watch the accompanying video - some
passengers may recognize themselves.
Soosaar read an article in the English-language supplement of the
Estonian weekly "Eesti Elu" entitled "Pier 21 and the
Little Estonian Ship of Freedom" (see full article below) and explains in a 2004 web posting how the Walnut display was
Pier 21 as it looks
today facing land.
Passengers would have seen
the other side of
Walnut passengers at
the Pier on
December 13th, 1948.
article on the Walnut is interesting and I can shed some light on how the
display was conceived. I was working as a producer for CBC Newsworld when
a friend got the contract to prepare a documentary on Pier 21. In
her research she discovered the story of the Walnut and an Estonian man who
sailed to Canada aboard the ship. He kept a detailed diary of his
voyage. My friend got the book and I translated sections of
it. The decision was made to do a separate display on the Walnut and
I read the translation and did the English language commentary. It's
a popular display and I've had many positive comments on it. My
family came to Canada in 1949, but through Quebec City instead of Halifax
although we settled in Nova Scotia. Pier 21 remains a popular
attraction on the Halifax waterfront, particularly for the thousands who
came through the terminal in the years after the war."
August 16, 2004
comment at original source HERE.
comments are in response to an article entitled Pier
21 and the Little Estonian Ship of Freedom which appeared in the Estonian
community newspaper Eesti Elu on
June 25th, 2004.
Walnut ship and journey has a special
display at the Pier 21 Museum.
addition to being able to enjoy the historic museum, visitors can enjoy the
Café, Gift Shop, and the Ralph and Rose Chiodo Harbourside Gallery.
also note, Pier 21 has photographs in a section entitled are
you in this picture for photographs for which there are no captions.
21 also encompasses the Scotiabank
Research Centre which
includes information concerning migration, nautical history, waves of
immigration, various ethnic groups and genealogy. The research centre
collects books, WWII stories, photographs, documents and ship memorabilia.
It currently has over 2000 stories, 600 oral histories, 1000 donated books, 300
films and thousands of images and scans of WWII documents.
research team offers reference services to visitors via e-mail, telephone or
post. If anyone has material to donate, please contact Carrie-Ann
Smith, Manager of Research (Tel: 425-0071 ext 225).
We sincerely thank
both the Pier 21 Museum
and Ms. Carrie-Ann Smith
for their kind support of this website!
following is a translation of an article which describes one man's arrival at
Pier 21. Although the memories are those of A. Kalbus, the author of the
article itself is not mentioned. Found amongst one passenger's newspaper
clippings, the date and source are not visible. It can be assume that it
appeared in print somewhere outside of Canada shortly after Dec.
following English version of the original newspaper article is not a
word-for-word exact translation of the Estonian text,
a very close English duplication of the author's writing. [ ] brackets indicate translator's comments.
by Tiiu Roiser-Chorowiec.
"The Walnut in Halifax"
author and date unknown. Other than original newspaper photograph
the other images have been added by the webmaster.
The Walnut passengers aboard
the ship in the dining area.
The refugee ship Walnut, the fate of
which we last knew arriving in Sidney harbor, has now moved on to Halifax,
where the refugees have been moved to an immigration camp. Travel
organizer A. Kalbus has written us about his first impressions, space for which
we here provide:
"We are in Halifax, Canada's largest port city. We have slept our
first night in camp [meaning refugee camp] beds. When asked by
other passengers how did you sleep, almost everyone answered -- badly. We
are missing what we had gotten accustomed to--the rocking, the murmur of the
wind, the noise of the water. Perhaps we should take turns to rock the
beds and throw water against the walls, then we could sleep again!
Traveling from Sydney to Halifax.
stopped at the Sydney pier for two days since there were gale force winds of 9
on the Atlantic. This raged itself out and the wind turned toward the
land. We picked a route partially through islands, moving through long
Canada forests. The land is hilly, the occasional small farms on the
shore, very similar to the terrain of Sweden. Although we departed
during a quiet time, the Atlantic once again showed its stormy mood, forcing
almost all passengers to bed. As we neared Halifax, a plane
patrolled overhead, a war ship approached us. A pilot boat came and took
us to an enormous immigration house. In the center of the building was
written in large letters "Welcome Home to Canada". Does this
apply to us as well, arriving without permission and homeless
They knew of our arrival. Already from
had phoned Ottawa, and that's where the order to go to Halifax came. We
know of this, since we received a bill for the phone call. Also we
paid for the overtime of the immigration official while he was onboard the
ship. We are responsible for our the cost of bringing our luggage to the
camp. This is no longer the generous Sweden who gives and assists.
This should be taken into consideration.
We are on the covers of newspapers with large pictures, interest in our
future is warm and kind. One hour after arriving in the harbour, we were
told to leave the ship. We filled immigration papers, women and
children were given sweets, every man got a pack of cigarettes and tobacco--and
onto the bus.
Manfred Kalm and Manivald Sein at the DP Camp.
The passengers were split into two. Families with children and those
without in another building. The latter in large and open former veteran
hospital rooms. Most of the rooms have one to four beds, often with their
own washroom and toilet. There is a guard at the door and exiting is not
permitted. We hear that more freedoms will be granted after a doctor's
examination and political screening has been completed.
Kalbus describes the meals at the refugee camp as "phenomenal".
Left: Refugee camp cook.
The food is phenomenal.
The first evening we had bullion, a roast with vegetables, pudding and
coffee. Of course, on the table was also butter and bread. It is
important to note the latter, which in Canada is very white. The wheat
from this country is considered to be one of the best world-wide. Perhaps
it tastes so good because I remember the stale bread onboard the ship. For
breakfast there were two eggs, corn flakes with milk and ice, or bread and
coffee. Lunch was also abundant. Undoubtedly, this was very good for
the passengers, since the seasickness had caused many men to loose their bellies
and many women to undergo unwanted diets.
passengers in Halifax
Christmas in Canada.
We must to go work committees.
A choir, a musicians group and a dance group have begun activities. It it
understandable that language courses are also beginning. We will scarcely
be freed before two months. The spirits are generally good and everyone
finds that despite life onboard being very cramped, the Walnut was nevertheless
a fine ship!"
"Pier 21 and the Little
Estonian Ship of Freedom"
appearing in Estonian Life, English-language supplement to the
Estonian weekly "Eesti Elu" -- Friday, June 25, 2004
Copyright © Eesti
with the kind permission of the Eesti Elu newspaper.
Read text at original source
There are many
reasons to visit Halifax. Dominated by a stone fortress that sits high
astride a hill, it is a maritime city with a bustling harbour, elegant
seafood restaurants, a rich history, and rugged coastal beauty.
The best reason,
however, is on a dock at the south end of the downtown waterfront in an
unassuming large brick warehouse. Called Pier 21, it is a place that has
shaped our country and about 20% of Canadians have a direct link to this
place. Nowhere will you gain a better perspective of the cultural mosaic
that is such a vital and vibrant characteristic of Canada.
cruise ships dock here, and disembark thousands of smiling tourists to the
welcoming swirl of kilts and bagpipes. But from 1928 to 1971 this was the
gateway to Canada, where over a million immigrants landed seeking a better life
In 1999, Pier 21
was opened as a National Historic Site with award-winning displays recreating
the experience of newly landed immigrants. There are many heart-rending
stories and the short film, Oceans of Hope, leaves hardly a dry eye
in the theatre as it shows emotional vignettes of immigrants arriving at Pier
21, and the painful experiences of young Canadian soldiers who went and came
from this dock in the thousands during the war.
Pier 21 is
particularly poignant for Estonians. In the years after World War II the
Soviet Union, claiming that Estonians and other Balts were Soviet citizens,
placed strong pressure on Sweden and Finland to deport them. When Sweden
capitulated and sent 167 refugees back to Russia, many Estonians, my parents
included, sought safety in Canada.
I wandered amongst the displays, I could picture my mother and father here in
1950 all their possessions in a clutch of suitcases, not speaking English, and
with me (age five) and my one-year old brother in tow. An interactive
computer display yielded information on the ship, Samaria, on which we
sailed in third class. The resource centre provided more information and
appliction forms to release the details of our arrival from archives.
display, in particular, captures the desperation and fear at that time. It
tells the story of a small ship, the Walnut, which carried 347
passengers, mostly Estonians, including 70 children, from Gothenburg, Sweden,
across a stormy Atlantic to Pier 21. The Walnut was purchased by
the passengers and, probably in fear of Soviet reprisal, was registered in
Panama and flew the blue and white Honduran flag. For safety reasons,
Swedish authorities allowed only 298 people aboard. The remaining 49
people skirted the problem by hiding below decks.
voyage lasted 26 days, and must have been sheer misery. The Walnut, a
wartime minesweeper, was not designed for passengers and was badly overcrowded
with the passengers living in makeshift "mail slots." As the
captain later reported, few passengers ate well or regularly. And those
with food likely did not keep it down long, for the North Atlantic in December
is a treacherous place, and two storms blew the tiny Walnut far offcourse,
tossing it about like a matchstick.
problems did not end when the ship finally reached Halifax on December 13, 1948,
for the arrival was illegal and the passengers, none of whom had valid visas,
were placed in detention. But the news media and the local population
championed these brave refugees and they were soon allowed entry. that
Christmas season was joyous indeed for these new Canadians, who demonstrated
their national talent by forming a choir and singing at the Halifax Lutheran
church. "DPs make merry at New Year," read a headline in the Halifax
refugees and their children and grandchildren are spread all across Canada, and
the Walnut is but a distant memory.
I looked back at the big brick warehouse and goose bumps formed on my skin and a
small tear welled in the corner of my eye. After many decades, a window
had unexpectedly opened and case a beam of light on my personal past and on my
national heritage. I was pleased that these memories will be preserved and
showcased here on this Halifax wharf.
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