DR. ADRIANA SHNALL
Photography by Meghan Richardson
Adriana (Adi) was born in Buenos Aires in 1963. Her parents were both born in Argentina, a country that accepted Jews when other countries did not. Her grandparents emigrated from Germany and Poland. Her mother’s parents went to Argentina in 1937, thanks to a cousin who sponsored them. Argentina accepted Jews as long as they were employed, since Argentina was a relatively new country then and needed professionals. Her grandfather was a professor and was able to find a position with the University of Buenos Aires.
In 1977, Adriana and her parents moved to Toronto. Numerous Jews left Argentina during the 1970s and 1980s to escape the repression of the military Junta, who targeted intellectuals and especially Jews. Adriana’s grandparents escaped Europe because of anti-Semitism in the 1930s, and her parents were determined not to let this happen to their family again.
Adriana’s parents chose to move to Toronto for several reasons: family in Toronto, advantages that were similar to those in the U.S. and their fluency in English. Her father came first to secure a job and find a place to live, followed by the rest of the family. Adriana was 14 when her family moved and began school at Forest Hill Collegiate, where she had a difficult time adjusting since she did not speak English and felt isolated. She also could not get used to the cold weather and missed her grandparents and friends. Her parents told her she had to stay in Canada for only five years and finish high school. By then, she felt at home. She found friendships through the Holy Blossom Youth Group and is now happy that her family moved here. Life has been good and has offered her and her family many opportunities. Adriana has three children in their 20s, all university educated. Two of them are in healthcare and she attributes this to both herself and her husband working in the health sector. Adriana has worked at Baycrest since January 1991 and considers herself to have ‘grown up’ at Baycrest. She started as a clinical social worker and while working, went back to the University of Toronto to complete her PhD. Adriana has devoted her career to working with older adults living with dementia and their family caregivers.
Adriana is very thankful to live in Toronto and thanks her parents, although she misses the warmth and friendliness of Latin Americans. She realizes the sacrifices her parents made by moving to Canada and she cannot begin to imagine what it would have been like for her parents to uproot everyone when they were a young family, leaving good jobs, family and friends, and having to start all over again. The political and economic situation in Argentina continues to be unstable and she is reminded daily how lucky she is to be in Canada.