Roland grew up part of a close-knit family in the small town of Worcester, one hundred kilometres from Cape Town. At the time, Worcester was home to a small Jewish community of 120 families, the life of which revolved around a single synagogue. Despite its small numbers, the community had a rabbi, a kindergarten teacher, and a Hebrew teacher. In the cheder, Roland learned the Hebrew grammar that was to come in useful when, years later, he studied in Israel.
After high school, Roland completed his year of compulsory military service and enrolled in electrical engineering at the University of Cape Town. He met his wife-to-be, Marion, during this time. The two shared a passion for classical music that would come to shape much of their life together. When Roland went to Israel to pursue a master’s degree at the Technion in Haifa, Marion joined him for part of the time. Even though he never had any intention of making a life in Israel, Roland remembers those years with Marion as among the most blissful and care-free of his life, including representing Israel in the European Junior Bridge Championships.
After graduating in 1976, Roland returned to Cape Town and started working in his father’s business, Merrimaker Industries. After four years, Roland decided to pursue his own path in the IT industry and moved to Johannesburg in 1981 with their two children. A year later, along with two work colleagues, Roland enrolled in a part-time MBA program at Wits University. In 1984, the three founded a software engineering business which was very successful. Fifteen years later they sold the business, which provided Roland and Marion with the financial resources to retire.
The Wilk family came to Canada in July 2003 after spending many summers there at a music camp in Quebec in the late 1990s. Roland and Marion are an integral part of the Toronto classical music scene, involved both in performance and administration. Their two older children live in New York and Beit Shemesh and the two younger ones both live in Toronto.
Cape Town (South Africa)
Worcester (South Africa)
00:27 Roland was born on 10 March 1951 in Worcester, South Africa. He discusses the location of Worcester.
01:00 Roland discusses his family history. His paternal grandfather came to South Africa with his parents from Lithuania. He discusses an incident involving his grandfather becoming a prisoner of war while serving with the South African army during the First World War.
02:32 Roland's maternal grandfather came to South African from Lithuania via England. His maternal grandmother came as a three-year-old from Kiev at the turn of the century.
03:24 Roland discusses his grandparents' early years in South Africa. He discusses an acne business started by his great-aunt.
05:10 Roland discusses his parents: where they were born, their education, their work, and his father's service during the Second World War.
06:37 Roland's parents settled in Worcester after they married. He discusses his father's business.
07:30 Roland describes Jewish life growing up in Worcester. Roland attended a Jewish kindergarten.
08:39 Roland discusses his Jewish education.
09:30 Roland discusses the paucity of culture in Worcester and his frequent visits to Cape Town to attend concerts.
10:10 Roalnd discusses his early involvement with music.
11:18 Roland discusses his other early interests.
11:29 Roland recounts his regular visits to Cape Town.
11:58 Roland discusses his limited involvement in Jewish youth groups and camps.
12:37 Roland discusses his family's involvement in Jewish/Zionist activities. His paternal uncle lived in Israel.
13:12 Roland discusses his secular education.
14:18 Roland discusses his eleven-month compulsory military after high school in 1968.
15:40 Roland explains the reasons for moving to Cape Town. He attended the university in Cape Town, studying electrical engineering. He met his future wife while at the university.
16:44 Roland explains the reasons for his limited involvement in political activities while at university. He describes some of the political unrest and the reaction by the state/police during that time. He discusses the evolution of the movement toward a liberal democracy in South Africa.
20:09 Roland discusses his time spent in Israel pursuing his postgraduate studies at the Technion in Haifa. Marion, his future wife, joined him in Israel. Roland mentions his interest in competitive bridge.
22:31 Roland discusses his return to Cape Town following his studies. He marries Marion in November.
23:50 Roland discusses the period after his marriage. He worked in his father's business for four years.
25:35 Roland explains his decision to return to engineering in 1981 and his work in a software engineering firm in Johannesburg.
25:18 Roland describes how he met Marion.
00:00 Roland continues to discuss his initial relationship with Marion and their shared interest in music.
00:51 Roland discusses his involvement in the Gardens Shul choir.
02:04 Roland mentions the birth of his four children.
02:40 Roland describes Cape Town and his involvement with the Jewish community in Cape Town.
04:14 Roland discusses the impact of the unrest in South Africa on his personal life and in more general terms.
07:17 Roland discusses his move to Johannesburg, including his work, studying for a master's of business of administration (MBA) degree, and performing in a choir.
08:36 Roland discusses how he and two friends opened their own software business, BSW, in 1984. They sold the business in 1999.
10:03 Roland discusses his involvement with the Johannesburg mail choir.
10:58 Roland discusses his continued interest in music and bridge.
11:24 Roland completed his MBA in 1986.
11:52 Roland discusses the growth of the business in the telecom industry.
13:57 Roland discusses his ongoing interest in music and performance.
17:25 Roland and his two business partners took a business course at Harvard over three summers, commencing in 1994. He explains how his decision to attend a summer music camp in Quebec during his second summer at Harvard turned into an annual family summer event.
19:25 Roland discusses how and why he and his business partners ended their business in 1999.
20:43 Roland discusses his family's plans after the business was sold. His older son went to the United States, and his older daughter went to Australia with the plan to move to Israel. The rest of the family opted for Canada.
22:22 Roland explains that, as a result of his involvement with a business in England, he and his family moved to Cambridge, England in 2002 until their visas for Canada came through.
23:14 Roland and his family move to Canada in July 2003.
23:37 Roland discusses the quality of his children's education in Johannesburg, Cambridge, and Toronto.
24:30 Roland discusses extended family members who remained in South Africa.
25:24 Roland explains the system of currency movement at the time he and his family emigrated from South Africa.
26:58 Roland discusses his business plans following immigration to Canada.
28:13 Roland describes efforts to purchase a house in Toronto in March before their arrival.
31:40 Roalnd discusses his first impressions of Canada following their move.
32:10 Roland recalls his first impressions of Canada following their move.
33:20 Roland discusses joining two orchestras in Toronto.
35:10 Roland describes a relatively easy adjustment to living in Toronto.
35:45 Roland discusses the challenges of initially finding the right placement for their younger son at York Mills Collegiate.
00:00 Roland suggests reasons to explain the easy integration for younger children in Toronto.
01:34 Roland explains why the family chose to move to Canada.
02:27 Roland discusses his limited contact with other South Africans in Toronto. He explains that he was more inclined to seek out a music community.
03:48 Roland recalls organizing a music fundraising event for the synagogue in Cambridge.
04:38 Roland discusses his involvement on the boards of many musical organizations.
05:50 Roland continues to offer reasons to explain the ease of his integration to Canada.
09:01 Roland discusses how he identifies himself as Canadian and appreciates Canadian values.
11:17 Roland discusses his Jewish life in Toronto and the practices of his children.
12:51 Roland discusses South African traditions that he has continued in Canada.
15:00 Roland explains that he returns to South Africa for two weeks every year to stay at a time-share. He discusses friends and relatives that they visit.
19:04 Roland discusses differences between Canada and South Africa.
22:37 Roland images how his and his family's lives would be had they remained in South Africa.
24:35 Roland discusses his mother who lives in Israel.
28:00 Roland discusses the Jewish community in Worcester when he was young.
31:40 Roland discusses how he started to make cheese at home following a request from his daughter-in-law, who keeps kosher.
00:27 Roland discusses his involvement with various orchestras and music camps.