Saturday, October 13, 2012


I came to Canada on March 24, 1990. My intention was not to stay in this country. It grew on me and I grew here. I was not a child when I came here. I was already 29 years old. But I was child in heart, and I am to this day. What this country thaught me is generosity. It taught me tolerance.It thaught me that people who are different are the same. It taught me the rule of civility. It taught me with its wide big space that only sky it the limit. I love this country just the same as I loved the country I grew up in - my beloved Yugoslavia. It taught me that tough times are just phases in my life, and that "please and thank you" are not just the phrases. I travelled to Vancouver and Montreal, and Charlottetown, and Ottawa. I live in Toronto. The most multicultural city I have ever seen. When I go back to my love - my always the most Loved Belgrade, I bring to peace two contintets, two loves of mine, and I suffer. Why the worlds I live in are so different: we speak diifferent language. My son cannot speak my mother tongue as well as it would be required for him to say words of love. But love is in his heart as well as mine. Canada is space - big country with beautiful nature, big trees, lakes, mountains. It is space with big blue sky, people from every corner of the world. Where I came from - looking from the plane landing in Belgrade, it is warm, welcoming and true. I wish this love of mine for people does not have borders. I speak foreign language, but my undestanding of human malaise is without borders. It is raining tonight in Toronto. Give me a hug. Give a hug to those who you love. I came here more than 20 years ago, and it was yesterday. Sky here and there when it rains is not the same. Tears are the same everywhere.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Invisible Girl

She came with high hopes and dreams to new land of opportunities. Only four days before she disappeared, she was trying to get into more advanced classes in English and French at Forest Hill Collegiate in Toronto. Mariam came to Canada only two months before school started, but she was already involved in the community by attending Dragon Boat Races organized by YMCA newcomer program, she loved Toronto libraries, and walks in the parks with her family. Family that she only started knowing again upon arrival to Toronto in June of 2009. For more than five years, Mariam and her brother George were separated from parents who moved to L.A.,California and then to Toronto, Canada in search for better life for their children. Events in Republic of Georgia at the time of their departure were not promising. It was the dawn of breakup of Soviet Union, and Georgia was going through political turmoil. Mariam's father Vakhtang got visiting scholar position with university in California. Mother Lela went with him, leaving children - Mariam and George, 12 and 10 then, with relatives. The family was close knit and children were safe there. While Vakhtang and Lela struggled to stay in States, they realized that they will never be able to establish themselves there to the degree that it will be possible to bring their children. They decided to move to Canada, and under "skilled immigrant" program got their landed immigrant status. It seemed at the time that their dream was coming true.

On the faithful morning of September 14, 2009, Mariam left for school with her brother George, the last person who saw her. They parted at the northern entrance to Forest Hill Collegiate, mere five minutes walk from their home on 20 Shallmar Blvd. Mother waved them good bye in front of the elevator on the 7th floor where they lived at the time. She will never see her daughter again.

In the days after Mariam's disappearance the most baffling thing for police and everyone else was that no one saw her on that day, nor anyone in the school with almost thousand students saw her, not only on that day, but in previous week when the school started. Monday, September 14, 2009 was actually the fifth day of new school year. The school started previous week, and it was a short week, that started on Tuesday, September 8, 2009, day after Labor Day. Mariam became invisible girl, who disappeared into thin air, until her backpack was found about a month later, close to another high school, but more that 2 km away from where Mariam was last seen. And then for more than two years nothing.

Finally, her remains were accidentally discovered under 401 overpass, in the ravine that is part of the golf course. The same ravine is adjacent to Earl Bales park that she frequented with her family in the summer of 2009. The place where her remains were found is about an hour walk through the paths in that ravine. Did she walk through the park, and ended up in the strange place, and walked up the overpass to see where she was? No one saw her. Did she walk on the busy street up north, towards highway, no one saw her. There is no security camera footage anywhere in the area that shows her image anywhere. If she walked on the overpass, how come no one saw her? Would that not be unusual to see pedestrian walking on the overpass of busy highway? Was it late at night? Where was she hiding all that time?

Mariam was invisible girl who disappeared one day in Toronto. In this big jungle of concrete and big parks. In this big place with so many people, and no one remember seeing her. What has become of all of us?

Please say hi to your neighbour today. Please be kind to others and yourself. Please be vigilant, be observant, be kind. Kids, be kind to new kids in your school. Be kind to those who are different for any reason. Include them. Do not allow that another beautiful young person becomes invisible victim of our own
self indulgence and arrogance.