Gerhard Weidelich was born in 1932 to a German family in Romania. He was seven when they were taken back to Germany, and thirteen when the Second World War ended and Gerhard, his mother, and four brothers were sent to Siberia as Russian prisoners. His mother being too old and the brothers too sick to work, they were released a year later and shipped back to Germany; one of his brothers died in the hospital soon after. In 1949 Gerhard was reunited with his father, who had been separately interred as a prisoner of war in Russia, and the family moved to the south of Germany to seek better employment. With a family of his own, Gerhard immigrated to Toronto in 1956, started work in construction, and witnessed the growth of a city.
“Compared to now [Toronto] was like a little village,” Gerhard remembers. “Eglinton Avenue was, so to speak, the perimeter. The 401 was north of Toronto, and it ended at Bayview. On Wilson Avenue and Keele there was still a post office with a wooden rail for the horses to tie on.”
Gerhard connected with a German congregation through a church on Broadview Avenue, and as he saw the parish expand so too did he see himself, and the other Germans who had immigrated to Toronto, grow and move on from their past.
“I’m very grateful for Canada, and that we were given the opportunity to come here and start fresh.”