The history of the migration of refugees to Manitoba after the Second World War is being documented thanks to a local prof.
Alexander Freund, Associated Professor of Oral History at the University of Winnipeg, is looking at three communities: the Europeans, who came to Winnipeg in the ‘50s and ‘60s; Latin Americans, especially Salvadorans who started to come in the ‘80s, and the Africans and Asians that were received in the province during the ‘90s and and at the turn of the century.
Freund said he considers it important get the information through oral testimony, giving community members the chance to talk about their own experiences as refugees when they left their countries.
“It’s important to find the balance between leading the project and letting the community make decisions,” said Freund in an interview conducted in Spanish, adding the ideas and topics people are talking about are fascinating.
Freund said he is focusing particularly on the Salvadoran community because they arrived Winnipeg as a result of civil war, and is the most populous Latin American group in the city.
The project, called Salvadoran Voices of Manitoba, is in its early stages. Members participating in the project went through a workshop to learn to interview others who want to shares their experiences.
Mario Jimenez, a member of the Salvadoran community, is participating in the project because he said “it is necessary to document the history of our pilgrimage of when we left El Salvador to come to Canada. The story of our exile is the legacy (we leave) for the next generations.”
The goal of the project is to collect as much oral history as possible.
“After that, I want to find out the stories of the families, the memory of the violence and how this affected refugees’ integration, and how Salvadorans communicated with their children and grandchildren… apparently there are gaps.”
It is the first time Freund has worked closely with communities and put the participation action research method into practice. Before, he did his investigations alone, decided what to do and who to interview. Now, Freund said he allows to the community to participate and make decisions how they want to talk and address the issues.
“I am amazed at the ideas and questions of the group participating,” said Freund.