Harbhajan Virk

Date of Birth:
1941
Birthplace:
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.

Meanwhile, Harbhajan Kaur’s parents came to Donald, British Columbia. On a trip to visit her parents, Harbhajan Kaur recalls seeing snow as they came off the airplane after landing in Vancouver. Although it would snow in England sometimes, it snowed a lot more here 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, her brother and elder brother resided in Lake Cowichan. During this trip, they also went to visit Victoria. Harbhajan Kaur’s eldest son decided he preferred Canada over England. As such they applied for immigration in Victoria, where their application was accepted after two months. Her husband came to Canada a little later, on 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 to be great, with very few families. They used to gather together and sit by the river to make ‘pakoras’, a fried South Asian snack. She recalls living in Donald to be very fun when she first came, primarily due to the closeness between families. The European origin people would also talk to them, and everybody knew one another.

However, she also remembers many challenges that were faced. Back then, there was no Punjabi grocery store or sweet shops. The Punjabi women would work at coffee shops, motels, and similar places, usually receiving around $2.50 an hour. Harbhajan Kaur’s first job was 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. Unfortunately, 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. Her husband 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.