Family celebrates 100 years in Canada

TORONTO — It has been 100 years since the first of the Borovoy clan arrived in Canada, and about 150 family members came together recently to mark the occasion and meet extended relatives at the 70th annual family reunion. 

Pictured at the recent Borovoy family reunion, from left, are Matthew Schmidt, Nancy Schmidt, Anissa Katz, May Lay, Ari Katz, Anita Freedland and Amber Gibson.

The 2008 Borovoy Picnic took place June 22 at Ballantrae Community Centre, in Stouffville, Ont.

The Borovoys came from a town called Krugloe (also known as Kroile), which was in the Mogilev province of what is now Belarus. Velvel and Freida Borovoy put down roots in Elora, Ont., in 1908.

Eight families came from that couple, with the names Borovoy, Garshowitz, Avruskin and Taraday. The descendants of the original eight Borovoy siblings now number several hundred people who live in Mexico, the United States and Canada, with about 80 living in Israel.

They include authors, engineers, amateur genealogists and recording artists, among many other professions.

Fred Borovoy, 73, took part in the family’s first reunion in 1938, when he was the youngest of some 45 first cousins. His father, Sol, was one of the eight original siblings in the clan. Although Fred has lived in Israel for 34 years, he has attended a reunion or has visited relatives in Canada regularly since 1978.

“This is very emotional for me. It’s good to see all of these relatives and good to see that there are still some second-generation [members of the original Elora Borovoys],” he said. “This is especially good for the younger generation to see where they come from.”

Fred graduated from the University of Toronto’s engineering program and went on to make aliyah. In Israel, he plied his trade in the Israeli military and for the country’s atomic energy program. He has also spent the past 34 years as a volunteer police officer.

“It’s good to see everybody and have the kids involved with the family,” said Steven Borovoy, 55, who lives in Manotick, Ont., near Ottawa. “It’s exciting to find out what’s going on and watch the kids grow, with each year.”

As chief of maintenance at Transport Canada, he manages the fleet of aircraft owned and operated by the Canadian government, including the fleets of the Canadian Coast Guard, the maritime surveillance program and the arctic surveillance program.

His daughter, Julia, was the youngest participant 20 years ago, at the 50th annual reunion. “I found this year’s picnic to be a great way to meet relatives we haven’t seen in years,” she said. “We have the panoramic photo from 20 years ago, when I was just three weeks old, and my family was looking at it along with our 2008 panoramic photo… When I show these photos to friends, they’re amazed. All of the little kids have grown, especially me.”

Gord Garshowitz, 63, who teaches part time at Toronto’s Or Chaim and Ulpanat Orot high schools, recalls attending reunions as far back as 55 years ago. They often took place at a farm near Guelph, Ont., owned by the Avruskin family.

“I can remember as a kid going to those reunions,” he said. “There were also local reunions that my family used to go to.”

Hartley Garshowitz, 52, has spent the past 20 years compiling an extensive family tree that goes back about 180 years. The tree, displayed at the reunion, now includes 5,400 names and contains 44 pages.

“It’s important to know one’s roots,” he said. “Knowing family background and maintaining contact with one’s extended family helps keep us together. It really is a small world.”

Hartley’s grandmother, Sarah Borovoy Garshowitz, came through Ellis Island in 1908 on her way to join other family members who had come over just before. She was joining her older sister, Dora, who had already settled in Canada with her husband, Samuel Avruskin.

This year’s reunion culminated in the opening of a time capsule that was sealed 20 years ago. It included name tags from the 1988 reunion, a sign-in book from the reunion, various letters to relatives, a genealogy chart, a driver’s licence from 1982, some old photographs and a family history book.