Articles

Everything that’s fit to print in every language fit to read

MARIKA ROBERT June 18 1960
Articles

Everything that’s fit to print in every language fit to read

MARIKA ROBERT June 18 1960

Everything that’s fit to print in every language fit to read

Articles

A million and a half readers look to Canada’s 93 foreign-language newspapers to find them wives, air their quarrels, help their kids with their homework and even get them out of jail

MARIKA ROBERT

IF YOU WALK down Queen Street West in Toronto, one of the great immigrant arteries of Canada, you will find squeezed between a Polish millinery shop and a vacant delicatessen an inconspicuous little book-and-cigar store. Its owner, Nicholas Chabal, a small pleasant Ukrainian, sells colorful Ukrainian calendars that bear the faces of stern national heroes and melancholy poets. He sells Mark Twain s short stories in Ukrainian, Treasure Island in Polish and stacks of various novels printed in the mysterious hieroglyphs used by most Eastern Slavic nations.

But like many other such merchants across Canada, he makes his main income from newspapers that are totally unfamiliar to the native Canadian eye. There are sixty different papers displayed on his counter, and almost every one is a journalistic three-ring circus. Diatribes substitute for duels, communists openly comment on what’s wrong with Canada — and New Canadians offer fresh and often surprising remarks about almost anything. There are papers in which a single ad has brought two hundred offers of marriage, and those in which the feature attraction is a serialized Victorian novel.

Foreign-language papers aren't new to Canada. Two Icelandic papers, printed in Winnipeg, date back to the 1880s; some Norwegian. Polish, Chinese, and German papers are more than half a century old. But never have there been as many as today: ninety-three ethnic papers printed in twenty-nine languages and read by

roughly a million and a half people, pre-war and postwar immigrants alike.

For most of the readers — the newest newcomers — the ethnic paper is not only a source of news but also their teacher, guide and friend in a foreign world. They will consult it if they want to rent a room, buy a car. hire a baby sitter, find their lost relatives, visit a fortune teller, or divorce their wives. They believe the goods advertised in it meet with the special approval of the editor.

Indeed, in the eyes of many newcomers, the editor becomes an omnipotent father image whose duty it is to help them, advise them and care for their well-being. When two German youths were arrested in Toronto for carrying bottles of beer in their pockets they immediately phoned Karl J. Baier from the Torontoer Zeitung and insisted he get them out of jail. The same Karl Baier was awakened at four o'clock one morning by the ringing of his phone.

"My wife isn't at home.” an exasperated husband yelled in German. "At this hour, did you ever hear of such a thing?”

"Do you want her to come home?” Baier asked calmly.

The answer was yes. so Baier crept out of bed, notified the police, and did his best to calm the man.

An ethnic editor may have to find an obstetrician in a hurry, advise on a real - estate deal, recommend a reliable plumber, attend

christenings and funerals, and even write school compositions on Prime Minister Diefenbaker.

"My son has a great problem." one lady wrote recently to the German Courier, published in Winnipeg. "He has to write a composition about the prime minister and I'm afraid 1 can't be of much help. Would you please advise him how to do it?”

"There arc two parties in our class." another little boy wrote to the same paper. "One is against immigration, the other, including myself, is for it. We arc having a debate on Friday and I thought you could give me a few facts that would help us to win it. It is very important. Please hurry."

Frank Glogowski. editor of Toronto's Polish Alliancer, is sometimes asked to attend weddings and give away the bride. Some of these brides may praise or curse him for ever after, since they had found their husbands with the help of his paper's lonely-hearts column. The interest in marital ads has sometimes been so great among the Poles that one lady advertising for a husband got 22b answers. (She rejected them ail.)

German and Hungarian papers also carry ads in which “gay widows"’ seek a secure future and German girls offer to answer all letters from males willing to import them to Canada. A "handsome Hussar" searching for a congenial maiden to share his life received seventysix letters.

One German ad

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Continued from page 25

asked: "Where are two young hearts in ladies' form who would like to share their loneliness with two pleasant gentlemen?” Instead of the conventional box number the romantic Hungarians use slogans, such as "Understanding heart,” or "Happy life," or "1 am longing for a faithful little wife."

The Polish paper also serves its readers by listing those who are sick at home or in a hospital and would welcome visitors. Though personal-advice columns are rare in the foreign-language press, the Courier has a lively one in which Frau Sylvia answers such questions as. "Is it proper to take a dog to a party?" and "What do you do with a nagging motherin-law who can't find her place in Canada?”

Although ethnic papers differ greatly in size and circulation their contents are remarkably similar. Fach devotes at least one page to news from the old country as well as the usual important ethnic and international news. But few ever report even big fires, plane crashes, or murders, and none has ever published comics. Their place is taken by fiction. Many papers run complete novels in installments. Croatian Voice is currently printing Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. And there is probably more poetry printed in the ethnic papers during one week than an average North American will see during his entire life. Fven the smallest papers will find room for poems. Many publications reserve a corner for ethnic jokes, usually supplied by readers. (Sample, from the Czech New Homeland: Two French diplomats are having lunch in a restaurant in Prague. "Fisten,” says one of them to the waiter, "I just can't cut this dumpling.” "I'd be surprised if you could,” says the waiter. "It's a microphone.”)

Most ethnic papers aren't gold mines and some arc published by idealists who expect to lose money. Staff members of the Czech Our Voices work for the paper for nothing after finishing their regular jobs. Fven so, the five-year-old paper barely breaks even.

A few papers do blossom into large and profitable operations. In 1954 Dan lannuzzi Jr., a handsome third-generation Canadian of Italian descent, decided to relearn his forgotten language and start an Italian paper in Toronto. Today his firm, Daisons Publications, owns four weeklies with a combined circulation of 38.000 and recently spent $250.000 on an expansion program.

Most foreign publications arc owned by an individual publisher or an organization. T here arc exceptions. The shares of the Finnish Vapaa Sana (Free Press) are held by two thousand Finns all over Canada who fully control the paper. The Japanese New Canadian belongs to its staff.

T he largest and most powerful ethnic paper is generally agreed to be the German-language C ourier, published in Winnipeg, with seven editions —• Montreal, Toronto. Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan. Alberta and Vancouver. When it began in 1907 as the Saskatchewan Courier, it was written in farmhouses.

Today it is a three-hundred-thousanddollar-a-year operation managed by Wilfred Ehman. The Courier's circulation is about 22,000, but since ethnic papers pass from hand to hand, its editor-inchief, Frank Haarhof of Toronto, thinks it has about a hundred thousand readers.

"We re not a German paper, we're a European paper printed in German," he says. "Many of our readers are Austrian. Hungarian. Ukrainian and Swiss."

During World War I. the government ordered the Courier to switch to English, but by the time of the next war the paper was judged to have proven its loyalty and was allowed to continue in German. John Ehman. who managed the paper from 1921 to 1942. didn't leave any doubt about his strong dislike of Hitler's regime. One of his editors, Bernard Bott. however, didn't agree with him. Before the war began he went to Germany and was trained by the Ausland Institute to turn the Courier into an outlet ot Nazi propaganda. When Ehman found out. he wrote to Bott in Germany, telling him he was fired and advising him to stay in the Third Reich. Bott returned anyway to start a paper of his own and was later interned. John Ehman was followed by his son Wilfred, who became an equally loyal and democratic managing director.

German papers democratic

In form and content, the Courier and the Torontoer Zeitung (TZ for short) are very similar, but the latter reflects the eastern Canadian orientation of the postwar German immigrants, most of whom live in Ontario. After a short, unsuccessful start, the TZ was revived by a former ladies' tailor and designer, Karl Julius Baier, in whose hands it has been thriving ever since. Baier, a prominent figure in the German community, is president of the Canadian Ethnic Press C lub. an organization of publishers and editors.

Ever since the Nazi Der Deutsche was banned, after appearing for four years in Winnipeg, all German publications have followed a democratic editorial policy. "There are no frictions among outpeople.'' says Baier. "We're propagating a Canadian outlook and aren't interested in political fights."

The same is not true of smaller ethnicpapers. The Voice of Canadian Serbs and Kanadiski Srbobran, for instance, argue for the return of the Yugoslav monarchy, but the Croatian Voice opposes it, dreaming of the days when Croatia was independent. Meanwhile, a small Serb monthly tries to promote fraternity between Moslems and the Greek Orthodox Church.

Polish papers usually agree on important political issues, but for a while the Alliancer and Glos Polski disagreed over the Polish art treasures in Quebec. Cilos Polski didn't think they should be returned to Poland but later changed its mind.

Hungarian papers are said to have the widest variety of political outlook, but their differences aren't apparent to the casual eye. Kanadai Magyarsag is said to be read avidly by former Nazi sympathizers. The Hungarian Herald often swerves Leftward, while Hungarian Life, considered the best of the lot, is more inclined to the Right.

While Ukrainian or Baltic publications light dead-serious battles against communism, the easy-going Hungarians handle it with humorous sarcasm. But the Hungarians do fight battles of another kind. Since duels arc i 1 lega I in Canada, "satisfaction" is often sought through an open letter in a Hungarian paper. One "injured party" recently wrote:

"It has been brought to my attention that on January 6. I960, on the pages of a certain Hungarian weekly one Mr. L. M. offended me gravely. Above-mentioned gentleman claimed that I used to be an enthusiastic member on the staff of (a certain) anti-Semitic newspaper. This is wholly untrue for I have never been enthusiastic and I have not written one single line into that paper. Similarly

I refute the charges according to which I was supposed to sing hymns about the glory of Himmler . . . Unfortunately I am unable to ask Mr. ! . M. to give me satisfaction, for to do this he would have to he a morally responsible person which is not the case. After thorough investigation I was able to acquire evidence which proves that Mr. !.. M. . . . was convicted for unlawfully using the title

of attorney in 1948 . . . for embezzlement in 1951 ...

Slightly different battles are fought in the Czechoslovakian press, where antifascist Czechs are accused of communistic tendencies by nationalistic Slovaks, who in turn are called Nazi-loving separationists.

"These Sodomites." writes the Slovak Domobrana about the democratic Czech

Our Voices, “continue to play their idiotic Red games in Canada."

"The Slovaks of Domobrana can't stand the democracy they are living in," writes Our Voices. "Their Slovak Republic was the worst tyranny of which only cursed memories remain."

Most ethnic papers are weeklies or semiweeklies; only the Chinese print dailies — three in Vancouver and one in Toronto, all established around the beginning of the century. All are violently opposed to the Red Chinese government. The only Chinese pro-communist paper went bankrupt in Toronto two years ago.

There are two Japanese papers, both published in Toronto. They were begun in Vancouver but moved during the w;artimc evacuation of Japanese-Canadians.

While eighty of Canada's foreignlanguage papers are strongly anti-communist, there are thirteen others that often startle new immigrants with the way they use the same expressions and party line as newspapers published behind the Iron Curtain. Hungarians, Yugoslavs, Poles. Italians, Lithuanians, Finns, Slovaks. Macedonians. Ukrainians and Russians each have one or more publications that sound like supplements of Pravda.

Some peddle Soviet “peace”

Between the peace doves decorating their pages, the communist papers carry large doses of national and international news aimed at discrediting the Canadian and U. S. governments. A recent issue of the Slovak People's News explained the U. S. farm situation this way:

"The farmers will have to leave the farms their fathers cleared of tree roots and rocks; whether they want it or not they will have to go for a vacation to the Salvation Army ... I he abandoned farms will be rented to bankers for the terribly high price of twenty-five cents per acre. And Washington's own Santa Claus will pay them $7.50 an acre."

I he Hungarian Worker recently claimed that Elliot Lake wais founded simply to help make thermonuclear bombs to be used against the U.S.S.R. and assured its readers that the Soviet Union, on the other hand, is developing atomic energy exclusively for peaceful purposes. Its comments on the Canadian domestic scene dwell on "the misery of hundreds of thousands, the failure of our farming, our tremendous national debt, the loss of our independence."

If the communist papers are financed (as some people insist) by Moscow, it doesn't show. Most appear only at irregular intervals and have to be kept alive by donations from readers. The Macedonian Voice, for instance, now needs $1,700 to keep going, even though the staff is unpaid.

To fight this Red competition, all the democratic press can do is to oiler better, more enjoyable, more useful papers. In this effort it is greatly helped by Canadian Scene, a news service providing ethnic publications with material on C anadian political affairs, history, social customs and industrial progress. Every week it sends a free 2,500 - word dispatch, already translated, to every democratic ethnic paper. Canadian Scene was started in 1951 by Mrs. Barbara Osier and Mrs. Douglas Jennings but the idea came from Wing Cmdr. John Gellner, who was an immigrant himself. It is supported by donations from national associations. business firms and individuals. Although no one but the Canadian ethnic

papers are given permission to use its material, reprints have been reported to appear in the U. S., South America. Africa, even communist Hungary.

In most cases ethnic papers distribute more unpaid copies than paid ones. To survive they need advertisements—more advertisements than the local shoemaker and butcher can afford. In 1952. Polishborn Stan Mokrzycki established New Canadian Press (now New Canadian Publications) and launched a campaign to explain the importance of the New Canadian Press to the government and to national advertisers.

"How are the people who can't read the local papers supposed to find out about health insurance, savings bonds, postal regulations, night classes?" Mokrzycki asked the government.

"The New Canadian is not a pauper," he told the national advertisers. "He wants to buy and he has to buy — more than an established Canadian would. He will consult his ethnic paper on that matter."

Mokrzycki offers the advertiser a package deal: he will translate the ad and place it in any or all of fifty foreign-language papers. Often the ads have to be rephrased. "More mileage to a gallon" means nothing to an immigrant who knows little about miles, gallons and North American cars, but "A car in Canada is a must" might easily attract his attention. The fact that most ethnic papers today carry ads for Coca-Cola. Labatt's. Kraft Foods, Canadian Westinghouse, and many other important companies can be attributed mainly to Stan Mokrzycki's efforts. But Mokrzycki isn't satisfied. "Were still not getting enough ads from the government." he says. "We are really the stepchild of the Canadian press."

Mokrzycki has a rival in Frank Kowalsky who used to work for New Canadian Publications before he established his own IJngua-Ad Service. But Mokrzycki concentrates on national advertisers. while Kowalsky, who is also of Polish origin, handles both national and local ads. He considers his greatest achievement was persuading some local theatres to advertise in ethnic papers. It took him five years.

Not all of the newcomers read the ethnic papers and not all of the readers

are newcomers. Many immigrants outgrow them with time and switch to English-language dailies. Dr. A. W. Schippers. editor ot the Nederlandse Courant, says he often gets letters from grateful readers who express their thanks for the help they received from the paper during their first years in Canada, but add they don't need it anymore. Others remain loyal all their lives. On its fiftieth birthday the Courier got a card from a seventy-six-year-old reader who claimed he had never missed an issue in fifty years. As a sign of appreciation the management

gave him a free lifetime subscription.

Loyalty to the ethnic paper is often carried on from one generation to the next. For those who have forgotten the language of their country of origin or perhaps never learned it. many papers are printed partly in English. Some ethnic papers have switched entirely to English. But most still cater to the latest immigrants who are often completely dependent on them.

Some Canadians, arguing integration would be faster without ethnic publications. have dubbed them "DP papers."

Mokrzycki says this should not be taken as a slur. He has devised an ingenious translation for the term DP. "DP in this case does not mean Displaced Persons." he insists. "Once he has settled in Canada the immigrant is ready to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers who have come here hundreds of years ago. Therefore. DP in fact means Delayed Pioneers. The only difference between them and the old pioneers is in time."

As the ethnic editors see it that's their job: to bridge the gap of time for Canada's newest pioneers, if