The Jiraneks (like thousands of others who have come to Canada since the end of the second world war) came to Canada as refugees seeking a life free of political persecution. The first five years were filled with homesickness as they had left their country of birth, their family, friends, home and all familiar things. It is a soul-jarring decision which leaves a void that takes years, if ever, to fill. Many refugees were well-respected professional members of the intellectual class in their country of origin, and leaders in the community.
While Canada offers them hope and safety from political persecution, often their professional qualifications are not recognized. This means that many are unable to work in their fields of expertise, but instead find work as taxi drivers or bus boys in order to support their families. There is a period in which the English or French language has to be learned and housing has to be found. Items such as automobiles, holidays and new clothes are too expensive. The focus of the parents becomes the betterment of the children, while ignoring their own wants and needs. This can be very stressful for many refugees who find that the qualifications which took them years to obtain are worthless in Canada.
For Michael and Renata, when they defected, they did so at a moment's notice, without telling anybody of their plans. They abandoned their studies in Prague and arrived in Canada with nothing but their hand luggage. A chance remark by a border guard led them to North Alberta. In Alberta, Renata worked as a waitress at an A&W, while Michael tried to get established as a figure-skating coach. It was pictures and music from home that kept them focused. They did not feel Canadian. They tried to fill the void in their hearts through figure-skating and dancing. Once they became affiliated with a figure-skating club in Edmonton, they worked to install both the discipline required to become a great figure-skater and a love for the art behind the music, into a generation of Canadian children. They succeeded.
In the late 1980's they visited Czechoslovakia. It was not until then that they realized it was no longer their home. Canada was now their home.