Harbhajan Virk

Date of Birth:
Village Patara, Punjab
Current City:
Golden, BC

Harbhajan Kaur Virk was born in Patara Village, District Jalandhar, in Punjab on May 13, 1941. Initially she immigrated to England after being married in India. Harbhajan Kaur lived in England for eight years where two of her sons were born, while her oldest son was born in India.

Harbhajan Kaur’s parents first arrived to Donald, British Columbia. On a trip to visit her parents, Harbhajan Kaur recalls seeing snow when they came off the airplane after landing in Vancouver. Although it would snow in England sometimes, it snowed a lot more in Canada- especially in northern BC.  Initially, Harbhajan Kaur landed in Edmonton, Alberta, and then her airplane was supposed to head over to Calgary, Alberta. However, due to poor weather conditions, the airplane landed in Vancouver, BC, where her brother met her. Unfortunately, Harbhajan Kaur lost all her luggage during this trip.

Harbhajan Kaur’s brother was eager to show her family what travelling on a ferry was like, so they headed from Vancouver over to Vancouver Island. At the time, both her brothers resided in Lake Cowichan. During this trip they also visited Victoria. Harbhajan Kaur’s eldest son decided he preferred Canada over England and so they soon applied for immigration in Victoria where their application was accepted after two months. Her husband came to Canada a little later during Harbhajan Kaur’s sister’s wedding. Initially, she lived with her aunt in Lake Cowichan for two months and then her family moved to Golden. They made the journey up to Golden in a car. Nearby, in Donald, BC, they were able to receive jobs at a mill and the company made houses for them to reside in Golden.

Harbhajan Kaur’s son also had breathing problems that greatly improved after moving to northern BC. She recalls life in Golden as being great, with there being very few families living there at the time and them all gathering together to sit by the river and make ‘pakoras’, a fritter snack. She recalls living in Donald to be very fun when she first came, primarily due to the closeness between families. The white community would also talk to them and everybody knew one another.

Harbhajan Kaur also remembers many challenges that were faced. For example, back then, there was no Punjabi grocery store or sweet shops. The Punjabi women would work at coffee shops, motels and similar places, usually earning a very low wage of $2.50 an hour. Harbhajan Kaur’s first job was as a housekeeper at a motel where she earned $1.50 an hour. She also remembers washing and drying clothes herself including her son’s cloth diapers. As well as this, she had to write letters to communicate with her remaining relatives in England. Later on, after becoming more settled, Harbhajan Kaur was able to co-own Selkirk, a restaurant and hotel based in Golden, alongside three of her brothers.

Harbhajan Kaur’s eldest son also lived a very accomplished life- becoming the first Punjabi Mayor of Golden, BC. Harbhajan Kaur recalls this as being a very happy occasion. Tragically, he passed away at a young age. He was a very well-liked member of the community and his pictures continue to be hung up at the Golden Town Hall. Soon after, Harbhajan Kaur’s husband also passed away because he’d found it very difficult to process his son’s death. Harbhajan Kaur’s older brother is the president of the town’s local Gurdwara. Currently, Harbhajan Kaur continues to reside in Golden.