Jan. 23, 2009.
Anna. Her name is Anna Kraisingerova, and she is somebody worth knowing. You may have seen her trudging along Prince of Wales Drive and wondered why she was walking alone in the bone-chilling cold and darkness. She walks because she has no choice.
"My job is in Barrhaven. I work nights. I must walk 18 kilometres to work. It takes six hours. And then I must walk six hours home after I work all night. I am nearly 60.
"This strike shouldn't happen," she says. "I come home, I rest for a few hours. Can you imagine to work all night and after to walk 18 kilometres home and then, sit down for two or three hours and then walk back and work all night again?"
Her dignity and her indomitable spirit are evident in the simple language she uses to describe her plight. But mostly it is exhaustion you hear in her voice. She has been working at the store for six years, and the bus ride is part of her routine. And then the transit strike came, shattering Anna's world.
"It's terrible, I walk the first three weeks. And then I was sick. It takes a lot of energy. I was so down in my energy, I couldn't go to work for a while.
"It's terrible, but what can I do? I really don't know. I don't have anybody here," she says, her voice breaking. "No family, no friends to help."
But Anna now has Noella Emard in her life, and that's no small thing.
On a December morning with the temperature at -25 C, Noella happened to notice someone she describes as "a little European lady" at the side of the road.
"My daughter and I were on our way to work and were talking about how cold it was and how so many people were without rides to get to work," she explains in a telephone interview from Florida, where she is on vacation. "We left Barrhaven and were driving along Leiken Road when we notice this lady walking with grocery bags near the new RCMP headquarters. She looked so cold, and
then all of a sudden she turned around to go back where she came from. My daughter and I looked at each other and said 'Yes, we are giving her a ride.'
"We stopped and asked her where she was going, and she said she was so cold she was going back to work. She was so cold that she could not go any farther and was just going back to work where she would try to get some sleep and work her night shift in the evening."
Noella was astonished when she learned where Anna lives.
"She had already been walking for an hour and a half, and she was near a big open field. When she told us she lived at Carling at Bronson, I said, 'Oh my God, We're driving you home. So for several days after this, we took her home, and at night would pick her up and drive her to her work. This is someone who cannot afford to stay home, otherwise she probably would lose her job. It's just so sad, this bus strike.
"Then she told us she had met someone at church on Christmas Day that would be helping her out."
What Noella does not mention is that she and her daughter gave Anna two bags filled with Christmas presents, an act of kindness that touched Anna's heart.
"This is a beautiful, beautiful lady and her daughter. It was cold with a very strong wind when they stopped. I had walked about seven kilometres and then I couldn't go on, that wind was so strong. I stopped and I was thinking what can I do. So I decided I'm going back to work. And at that time that lady stopped and drove me home. She was so nice, and later they gave me beautiful presents ... They said they would help, but I cannot keep asking them."
Anna came to Canada from the Czech Republic about 12 years ago and speaks with an accent. She grew up about 50 kilometres from Prague, but will not say much about her past.
"I have had very bad experience with people. Probably that's why I have no friends, because I'm afraid of people."
After walking home from work yesterday, Anna's clothing was soaked through. It was about 1:30 p.m. She had finished work around 7:30 a.m.
"Because the weather is mild, the streets are full of water. And some people in cars don't care, and they splash me. I'm so dirty -- my jacket, my pants -- everything. Some days it's really terrible." After a quick shower, she was ready for bed.
"I will wake up around midnight, then I have to stay up. I cannot sleep all night. In the morning, I have to sleep because if I'm not sleeping in the day, I cannot work nights. I have to be OK at work. I want to work, I have to work. At a my age I cannot find another job." So far, Anna has taken a taxi only three times.
"It's $40, too much."
只是這次罷工也讓村民團結起來﹐相互扶持﹐組織便車 (car pool) 接送﹐不讓冬天的天氣或交通問題過份地影響工作及家庭生活。二月初聯邦政府終於考慮修訂復工法案﹐勞資雙方強硬的態度也因而軟化﹐同意尋求第三者作出裁定。公車終於在上星期恢復服務﹐學子及上班族漸漸回歸正常的生活軌道。