Meet the french community: David Kresz [fr]
It is a complex and moving story of a man born at the crossroads of languages, cultures and borders. It is a story of a man torn between different identities, on a tight rope between a sense of rootlessness and the ability to adapt, who continues to search for the answer to the question “Who am I?” It is a rich and fascinating story of David Kresz whose life story invites questions that evoke identity, belonging, exile, departure and return, but this is not a sad story: this is a story about a happy man!
The story of David Kresz is undoubtedly similar to so many others, similar to the life stories of those who one day decided to leave. David Kresz was born in 1955 to parents who were artists and travellers. His mother is Lithuanian of German origin, his father Hungarian. With the Soviet expansion looming over Europe, both were fleeing their respective countries after the Second World War. Already at that time, Canada was the country that nourished dreams of escape for people who were looking for shelter from war, misery and unemployment. Both in Toronto, David’s parents met at the Ontario College of Arts, subsequently married and quickly obtained Canadian citizenship. Toronto of the late 1940s and early 1950s was an industrial city, not a fertile ground for the arts, and so the couple made ends meet by working small jobs on tobacco farms and in factories. However, their yearning for artistic freedom and expression led them back to Europe where they hopped from Spain to Italy and then to France where they finally settled in the region of Vaucluse, in Vaison-la-Romaine in 1954. David was born a year later: a Canadian on the French soil. His family spoke German, as it was the language his parents shared. David recalls the distrust and suspicion of the locals toward these strangers who spoke a language that evoked so many painful memories, just some ten years after the end of the war.
David grew up under the sun of the Provence where he attended school until high school graduation. With a diploma in his pocket, he decided to go to Toronto where, as a Canadian citizen, he could pursue his post-secondary studies. He arrived in Canada in 1975, not knowing the language or the culture very well. “I felt a bit like a stranger in France,” he says, “my parents being naturalized Canadians who also had fled their countries of origin.” Just like it was for his parents thirty years ago, it was now once again the dreamed destination, a country where everyone came from someplace else in search of a new identity.
In four years, David graduated with a degree in geology from the University of Toronto, and then shortly after, he completed his specialization in volcanology and geochemistry at the university in St. Catharines. These valuable qualifications enabled him to work for the Ontario Geological Survey where he mapped out Precambrian rocks in the north of the province.
Suddenly finding himself in a 100% anglophone environment, David became concerned about his French: What if he were to lose his French? In his effort to preserve his French that he considers to be his dominant language, he decided to return to the classrooms of the University of Toronto and complete a training program in translation, from English to French, on a part-time basis.
In 1979, and in a twist of faith, David met his future wife, Evelyne, a French woman from Clermont-Ferrand. She married him in France and decided to embark on their Canadian adventure. It is on this occasion that he learned that he was officially a French national since the age of 19, as he had spent 20 years in the country. Their family grew quickly with the birth of their two children in 1985 and 1987.
In 2004, David was finally able to make his dream come true. After having worked as a geologist with the provincial government, as a translator, as a school bus driver and even as a gold prospector in Indonesia, he bought a hardware store and revived a business that had been in existence for 40 years: one of the last independent hardware stores in Toronto. “I have always dreamed of having a hardware store, I don’t really know why.” Perhaps because the place simply reminds him of a hardware store in Vaison-la-Romaine where David remembers wandering as a child through the aisles filled with old-fashioned tools.
David has no regrets. “We passed on the French language to our children so that they can have all the possible options in the future as adults.” Perhaps, they will attempt the road back to France, from their native Canada to a country where they have never lived before.
After all these years, he admits he still sometimes feels like he has no roots, “When we got married, I promised my wife that we would return to France after several years. We have been here for 35 years, perhaps it’s time to fulfill my promise…”