Isak's Journey

Saskatchewan Archives Board, S-C54.  Elik, Isak Simon
Excerpt of a Transcript of a Tape Recorded Interview with Isak Simon Elik
Interview conducted by D.H. Bocking, December 21, 1970

DB:
We are interviewing Mr. Isak Elik.  Now, Mr. Elik, would you start by telling us where you were born?

IE:
I was born in Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia, in 1889, 28 of March, and I went to public school and high school in that city.

DB:
Were your parents well-to-do people?

IE:
No, they weren’t well-to-do people.  They just had a little grocery store in Sevastopol.

DB:
But you were fairly well educated for that time, were you not?

IE:
Well, I attended public school and high school and then at the age of about 16, I move to another city also in Crimea – Kerch.  In Kerch, I continued my high school and I joined a pharmacy and registered as an apprentice.  Then I worked for three years.  In between, after working for about three years I served in the Russian Imperial Army.  I had such an educational standing I didn’t have to serve four years, I just served about a year and half.  After that I went and worked again another three years in the pharmacy.  In between I traveled – I went to Vienna and stayed there for about a year, and before that I went to Turkey and I took up languages.  I spoke French and German fluently.  In 1913, I emigrated to Canada.

DB:
Why?

IE:
Because of my educational standing and my accomplishment of assistant pharmacist, I would be eligible to go to University in Russia, but it was only a two percent norm.  That means that out of 150 only 2 Jews would be accepted.  And that’s why I figured I would have to wait about 100 years before I got there.  So I emigrated with the thought that I had a good educational standing from Russia, and I emigrated to Winnipeg in 1913.

DB:
Did you have someone to come to?

IE:
Yes, I came to some of our friends from the city, and it was kind of a depression in 1913 and for three months I couldn’t find work, but they were willing to help support me, and then the first job I ever had was in Dauphin, Manitoba, on a farm.  I had never seen a farm in my life as I was brought up in big cities like Sevastopol, Odessa, and so on.  So for about a summer or so I worked there until the farmers couldn’t stand me because I didn’t understand the workings of the farm.  So I came back to Winnipeg….

…And then I wanted to go into pharmacy.  I got a lawyer and he went over all my qualifications and made affidavits and so on that my qualifications were sufficient to qualify for university.  I was accepted in the university….For two years The School of Pharmacy was affiliated with the University.  I had to serve also in a drug store.  I saved enough money to go to college but I had to put in two years apprenticeship, then two years University in between…I worked for two years at a Liggett drug store at a salary of $3.50 a week…. Then I graduated.  I think it was in 1917 or something like that.  Then after graduation there was a shortage of druggists and I was offered a job…

Note:  In the 1920s, Isak moved to Saskatchewan, where he eventually owned his own pharmacies in Saskatoon.