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Hello! I’m Monika Schaefer. I was born and raised in Canada, first generation Canadian citizen of German heritage. My parents both came from Germany. They immigrated to Canada in 1951 and ‘52, respectively.
There was a bit of a disconnect between what I experienced in the home life and what I felt outside the home. I love the rich German traditions and culture that I grew up with and yet, I felt ashamed of my Germanness when I was at school, or outside with my friends. I learned very quickly to hide my heritage.
It started in the first week of school. Day one, I wore my beautiful little dirndl, a traditional German dress and on day two, children were taunting me:
‘Oh you forgot to take off your apron! Ha ha ha!’ as they were running away, or ‘Heil Hitler! Ha ha!’, again taunting me.
[Image] German women wearing dirndl. A dirndl is a type of traditional dress worn in Germany, especially Bavaria; Austria; and the South Tyrol, based on the traditional clothing of Alps peasants.
I didn’t exactly know the meaning of that, but I knew it was not friendly. They were being cruel. That was very clear to me.
I’m reminded, just now, of the plight of the indigenous peoples of North America. They were also made to be ashamed of their culture.
I would like to share with you now a deep regret that I have for something which I would like to apologize to my parents for, but cannot, because they are no longer alive.