Day 74 - Gee

74 Gee.jpeg

Day 74 - Gee (2nd person I approached)

March 15, 2014 - “My name is George, but my friends call me Gee. G E E,” he says, spelling his name for me. “Sure I’d be happy to talk with you. There’s no need to show me your blog. You have an honest face and your approach is one that leads me to believe you,” says Gee when I offer to show him the pages I have bookmarked on my phone.

Gee was born in Solingen, West Germany, to Russian parents.

“My parents were captured by the Nazi’s in Russia and sent to work camps during the war. After the allies liberated Germany, my parents met, and when I was just a year old, the family moved to Brussels, in Belgium,” Gee says.

We spoke of his experience being raised by parents who had survived not only the war, but time in concentration camps.

“My parents shared their feelings and talked at length about those years. I think unlike a lot of youth, I was fortunate, because I listened to them. I learned lessons of life, and appreciation at an early age. Both of my parents also had very good senses of humour. I think that was integral to their well-being and survival.” 

The family lived in Brussels until Gee was about seven years old. He had by this time a younger sister, born when Gee was six. The family boarded a ship and sailed to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. Gee tells me,

“ I remember clearly the decks on that ship. Where we slept was one very large open area, with rows and rows of bunk beds. I recall being on the upper deck with Dad and watching the crew empty very large containers of garbage into the water. And one got away, and I was standing on the ships edge and watching in wonderment as it sank out of sight,“ Gee said.

“The ship was carrying many ‘displaced persons’ or DP’s as we were called. Families with children, all taking advantage of an opportunity to start a new life. The choices were the United States, Canada or Australia. I wish I knew why my parents chose Canada, but I don’t.”

The family ended their journey in Montreal.

“I was put into an English-speaking school. The time of year apparently didn’t fit in with the French speaking school, although I had been in a French speaking school in Brussels. We spoke Russian at home, and it seemed like overnight, I learned how to speak English. I don’t recall it being difficult, but I certainly didn’t speak English when we arrived in Montreal,” he said. 

Gee lived in Montreal until five years ago. When I asked him what he did after school, and for all those years in Montreal afterwards, Gee asked if I minded if we didn’t talk about that. I explained that this was his story, and if he didn’t want to talk about something, then we wouldn’t. By way of explanation, Gee offered,

“I feel that when someone asks you what you do, or what you did, it paints a static picture of you. That picture might not really represent who you are. A person reading this might form idea’s and then I become that man that did such and such. I’m not interested in what a person does, or did. I’m interested in what is in a persons heart and mind.” 

I asked Gee if he was close to his sister,

“Yes we are close, but I would like if she opened up more. She has been married three times, and I’ve never asked her about that. I accept that that is her life. She is involved in Scientology, and I’d like to know more about that, but of course, contrary to the ideals of Scientology, she isn’t allowed to speak about it. I don’t care what she does, but I wish I knew more of her heart.”

I asked Gee how he came to live in Kelowna, and he told me,

“A friend of mine had reconnected with someone I knew many years before, and through him, I reconnected with this friend, who lives in Kelowna. He suggested that life was good in Kelowna and I was looking to make some changes, so I put my house up for sale. It all happened so quickly! My house in Montreal sold in what seemed like 15 minutes, so I packed my bags. I was single and had no real ties to keep me from moving, and so I moved to Kelowna.”

Upon reflection, Gee says he might have decided on somewhere other than Kelowna, saying

“It’s a little white bread and straight laced, you know. Especially after living in Montreal for so many years. Montreal is alive, and vibrant. Kelowna is a little slow for me. But at least the weather is better. I used to say of Montreal during the long winter days, ‘It looks like it’s going to be another Grey Poupon day.’ ” #notastranger