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Elfreda and Alec Levine
Material Format
moving images
Interview Date
9 Feb. 2017
Oral Histories
Elfreda and Alec Levine
OH 442
Canada--Emigration and immigration
Jews--South Africa
South Africa--Emigration and immigration
Interview Date
9 Feb. 2017
Miriam Borden
Total Running Time
OH 422 part 1: 37 min.
OH 422 part 2: 9 min.
Alec and Elfreda met when they were young teenagers. Elfreda was friends with Alec’s sister and the two would play tennis together. Despite meeting at a young age, Alec and Elfreda did not begin dating until they were in their early twenties. They married in 1958 and subsequently had three children. It was largely on account of their two eldest children that they emigrated. Their eldest son had emigrated first, initially settling in Saskatchewan, while their daughter emigrated shortly thereafter, making a home in the United Kingdom. Their youngest son chose to remain in South Africa.
Following the birth of their granddaughter in Saskatoon, Alec and Elfreda began making regular trips to Canada. As time went on and crime continued to rise in South Africa, Alec and Elfreda’s children started to encourage their parents to move to Canada. This they did in 1999, arriving in Toronto in the cold month of October. While the ice and snow initially made for a new and exciting experience, they quickly got over it.
Arriving in their sixties, Alec and Elfreda initially struggled in their new country, but soon found work and made friends. Making this process somewhat easier was the fact that the two enjoyed exploring the different areas of the city via subway, an activity they keep up to this day. Alec and Elfreda also continue to follow developments in South Africa—in part because one of their sons lives there—but now think of themselves as Canadians.
Material Format
moving images
Name Access
Levine, Alec
Levine, Elfreda
Geographic Access
Cape Town (South Africa)
Johannesburg (South Africa)
Toronto (Ont.)
Original Format
Digital file
Copy Format
Digital file
00:40 Elfreda discusses her family's immigration to South Africa. Her maternal grandparents came to Cape Town from Riga, Latvia via London. Her paternal grandfather came to South Africa in his teens and settled in ?Aliwal North.
02:14 Alec discusses his family's immigration to South Africa. His parents were married in Riga, Latvia. His maternal grandfather came to South Africa. During the period of 1930-1936, he brought his five daughters and their husbands to South Africa.
03:30 Elfreda describes Jewish life in Aliwal North. She explains why the Jewish population declined over time.
05:08 Elfreda recalls travelling by train to cities for holidays and how she and Alec met during holiday.
06:41 Alec describes his Jewish life growing up in Johannesburg.
07:48 Elfreda continues to discuss Jewish life while growing up in a small community.
09:13 Alec and Elfreda discuss Jewish youth groups and camps.
10:35 Elfreda discusses her academic path: two years of nursing in Cape Town and commercial bookkeeping in Johannesburg.
12:13 Alec discusses his career path: architecture for two years then joining the family plumbing business.
13:00 Alec and Elfreda married in 1958.
13:24 Alec describes his limited involvement in politics in South Africa. Their daughter became involved with the African National Congress (ANC) while she attended university.
14:55 Elfreda shares her memories from her childhood. She recalls the impact of apartheid following the rise of the nationalists in 1948.
16:13 Alec and Elfreda discuss having household staff in their homes while growing up and after they were married.
19:50 Elfreda describes a party she held for her family's maid when she retired.
21:17 Alec and Elfreda explain when and why their two older children emigrated from South Africa. Their youngest son remained in South Africa.
22:49 Alec and Elfreda discuss the factors that contributed to their decision to immigrate to Canada.
25:13 Alec describes some incidents of violence he personally experienced in Johannesburg.
25:58 Alec and Elfreda describe their feeling about leaving South Africa and the challenges of immigrating at a later stage of life (e.g. upgrading their work skills, finding work, making new friends).
28:33 Alec and Elfreda share some of their earliest memories of moving to Canada.
30:35 Alec discusses his early efforts to find work in Canada.
33:52 Elfreda discusses her involvement with the Jewish community, notably the South African Jewish community since their arrival in Canada.
35:49 Elfreda discusses how their willingness to explore Toronto has helped with their integration.
Part 2:
00:34 Alec and Elfreda describe the response from family and friends in South Africa to their decision to leave.
02:25 Alec and Elfreda came to Canada in October 1999. Their son, Mark, came in 1986.
02:50 Alec and Elfreda discuss the easier experience of integration by their son's family compared to their own.
03:49 Elfreda relates a family story. Mark settled in a small town in Saskatchewan when he arrived in Canada. He discovered that relatives of Elfreda had settled in a small neighbouring community in 1906.
5:00 Elfreda discusses their identity as Canadians.
Elfreda discusses their ongoing connections with South Africa.
07:30 Elfreda notes that they did not experience culture shock as they settled in Canada.
Oral Histories

Not the Way to Live

Afrikaners Dominated Politics

Leaving your Heart in South Africa

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