Eva sailed for Canada in April, 1959 on a ship called the Batory.
Eva Hoffman was born on July 1, 1945—right as World War II ended. Her family left to Canada in April, 1959, when she was thirteen years old.
The book begins with Eva’s vivid recollection of starting to sail for Canada.
It is April, 1959, I’m standing at the railing of the Batory’s upper deck, and I feel as if my life was ending. … We be leaving all this behind—but we are. I am thirteen years old, and we are emigrating. (Part 1, p. 3)
Eva remembers leaving Gdynia, Poland as “crushing” as if “it might as well mean the end of the world” (Part 1, p. 3). At thirteen, she did not want to leave her home. She certainly did not want to go to a strange, faraway place where she did not speak the language.
Her parents are harassed and searched, but she and her sister manage to smuggle out some of their own silver that is not supposed to leave the country. She knows nothing about Canada, but it is a promise land for her father. It is the place where the family’s dreams will come true.