Fear, guilt, ‘trauma and resilience’: Newly launched Refugee Story Bank of Canada shares stories by those who’ve sought protection in Canada

June 23, 2021

By Toronto Star |

For a long time, Boban Stojanović volunteered at refugee camps across Serbia, where people from Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo sought refuge from the war after the former Yugoslavia crumbled through the 1990s.

He would join the peace, feminist and LGBTQ movements to advocate for equality and human rights. His activism would lead him to speak at workshops in small towns and at international events, such as Montreal Pride in 2014, where he was grand marshal.

The last thing he imagined was becoming a refugee himself one day, in Canada.

“I was a volunteer working with refugees in my country. And here’s my story and journey from being a supporter of refugees to a refugee,” said Stojanović, who fled here for asylum with his partner in 2016 after he was assaulted in Belgrade.

“I was born in a country called Yugoslavia and then there’s a war. You just never know what can happen overnight. Canadians are comfortable but you can find yourself in that situation in a month, a year, 10 years but hopefully never.”

Stojanović’s story is one of many featured by the Refugee Story Bank of Canada, a new initiative to collect and showcase personal stories by migrants who have sought protection in this country from violence, war, oppression, discrimination and persecution.

The idea of a collection of Canadian refugee stories was first conceived in 2015 by University of Calgary professor and cultural historian George Melnyk, who felt inspired by Canada’s national project to resettle as many as 25,000 Syrian refugees over a span of four months.

While individual refugees have written books about their journeys, Melnyk said there had not been a collection of stories by different refugees to highlight the diversity of refugee experiences.

 

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