Seen through the eyes of an 11-year-old, it was an adventure: escaping from Budapest; dodging military checkpoints; crossing the border into Austria, traversing cornfields at night; spending three months at a refugee camp. For Michael Newman, it was the trip of a lifetime when he and his parents left Hungary in the midst of a revolution against Soviet rule to emigrate to Canada. One snowy night in January 1957, his family and another 80 refugees landed in a military plane at the base in Goose Bay, Labrador, to refuel before continuing on to Ottawa. At 3 a.m., as the group was served a breakfast of eggs and sausages, Newman watched, incredulous, as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force walked over to a dispenser and poured a glass of milk. The boy copied him, lifting the lever, letting the white, frothy liquid fill half a cup. He drank it quickly and ran back to his parents, mesmerized by the “amazing milk machine.” The soldier then approached with a large jug, gesturing toward the milk dispenser. “He took me by the hand and led me back to the machine,” Newman says, “and together we filled the jug to the brim.” He was sold on Canada. “Here was a country where you could drink all the milk you wanted,” he says. “No standing in line with your ration card.”
Fifty-five years on, Newman still sees that night as the beginning of a rewarding life. His family settled in Toronto, where he became a successful businessman, husband, father and grandfather. Recently retired, he now plans to work with refugees. “I know what they’re going through, and I want to help them,” he says. Newman still drinks milk every once in a while, and it always reminds him of the automatic cow and how happy he was to be in Canada.