Did you walk to school with a handkerchief over your face because the pollution was so bad? Did your mother have to replant the garden five times because of acid rain? Were mine tailings your personal playground?
Stacey Zembrzycki, a Sudbury-born adjunct assistant professor at Concordia University, wants to hear these kinds of stories.
It's all part of a project called “Mining Immigrant Bodies: A Multi-Ethnic Oral History of Industry, Environment and Health in the Sudbury Region,” supported by Concordia University and a federal government grant.
She's looking to interview men and women who came to Canada in the postwar period — as well as their children — and lived in Copper Cliff, Coniston, Gatchell or the Donovan, where mining impacted heavily on day-to-day life.
Zembrzycki also hopes to speak to those who worked in the mining industry or their families about the health impacts of these jobs.
“We've had tons of scientific studies on Sudbury, but no one's talked to the people,” said Zembrzycki, the author of the 2014 book According to Baba: A Collaborative Oral History of Sudbury's Ukrainian Community.
“So as a historian, I want to go talk to the people just about their memories and see if we stitch together a story about people's perspectives about living here through some really tough times and into today.”
Once she's gathered enough information, Zembrzycki plans to create a historic walking tour smart phone app, which will include audio information about local communities, as well as historic photos.
“I was just in Gatchell today, and it's amazing how they've limed it (and regreened the area),” she said.
“It's like a green halo. It's amazing. I'm thinking how we could put some historical pictures up to that and people can hold up their phone and literally see the slag right against the green.”
Those interested in learning more or participating in the project are asked to contact Zembrzycki at 705-523-1953, firstname.lastname@example.org or miningimmigrantbodies.ca. You can also find information on a Facebook page Zembrzycki created.