Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Canada, a land of immigrants

First official Canadian citizenship ceremony, with Karsh back row far right, 1947

Journalist Robert McGarvey wrote an article for Troy Media this week, reflecting on “the enormous contribution of newcomers to Canada.” It is Karsh’s immigration story that McGarvey uses to make his point.

Here are (Karsh’s) impressions of arriving in Canada, cold and alone as a youngster almost a century ago:

“On the stormy New Year’s Eve of 1924, the liner Versailles reached Halifax from Beirut. Her most excited passenger in the steerage class must have been an Armenian boy of 16 who spoke little French and less English. I was that boy…

“For the moment it was enough to find myself safe in Canada, the massacres, torture and the heartbreak of Armenia behind me; to feel, even then, that I was coming home.”

These are stirring turns of phrase given the difficulties this young boy faced in escaping the horrors of genocide and the obvious challenges he would continue to face as a stranger in Canada.

The fact that Karsh felt at home so immediately speaks to a special quality of Canadian officialdom: never at a loss when it comes to completing their paperwork, these Canadian bureaucrats are a beacon of light compared with most border officials.

That young boy not only adjusted to his new country, he thrived. He became, in time, one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. Karsh was an international sensation, producing iconic photo portraits of world figures during and after the Second World War.

Read the rest of Mr. McGarvey’s column for Troy Media.

Read Karsh’s biography.