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In December 1944, Ausma’s family of five had to flee their farm in Latvia. War had disrupted their life and Ausma and her family had no other recourse but to abandon their home and depart from their motherland.

"All hope of a normal life after four years of mayhem had vanished," says Rowberry. "For three months, we took shelter from the fighting and the elements where we could find it, mainly in the woods."

Eventually, Ausma and her family made their way to a Displaced Person’s camp in Germany, where they spent the next four years. After the war, Ausma and her family were among the millions of Displaced Persons across Europe.

"Our farm was in rubble. Latvia no longer existed, so return was impossible! Our heritage was both destroyed and denied to us. The paramount concern was how to provide for one's family, where and how to secure a future," says Rowberry. "Daily life in the D.P. camps after the war became more stable due to the humanitarian aid that was received. However there was little hope for the refugees of rebuilding life in a war torn Europe."

By the late 1940s some of her relatives had gotten approval to come to Canada under the auspices of the International Refugee Organization. Upon approval, her family immigrated to Canada in two stages: in 1948, Ausma’s father and brother immigrated to Canada to work as labourers. A year later, her and her mother and sister boarded the Samaria.

"The months of separation were both anxious and busy. Now, it was our turn to go before the commission and wait for someone to determine if we were worthy candidates for Canada," recalls Rowberry. "Waiting for this verdict was no less daunting than waiting on previous occasions for a judgment that would determine whether or not we were deserving of food or shelter."

As their ship sailed across the Atlantic, Canadian officials were busy organizing a ceremony to recognize the 50,000th Displaced Person to arrive in Canada. Knowing that the next ship, the Samaria, would mark this milestone, they picked an eight year old Latvian girl, while she was somewhere in the mid-Atlantic as the 50,000th D.P.

Upon arrival at Pier 21, Ausma was taken aside and a large sign was hung around her neck to mark a milestone in the Canadian government immigration plan. Ausma Rowberry nee Levalds had been named the 50,000th Displaced Person to arrive in Canada.

Reporters and officials gathered in the Assembly Hall at Pier 21 to make speeches and presentations. She received a number of gifts – a doll, a locket, a Bible and other books – from the mayor and various immigration officials at the time.

"When a large sign bearing the number 50,000 was hung around my neck I was totally bewildered by the procedure. I was confused by all the commotion, apprehensive and frustrated at the constant attempts that were being made to separate me from my mother and sister," says Rowberry. "We were ushered into Assembly Hall for a ceremony. The flashing cameras and the microphones were disconcerting and demanding! Unfortunately I was unable to comply as I neither understood nor spoke English."

Although she did not comprehend the meaning of D.P. for many years, she found being called D.P. extremely painful. However, Ausma still treasures the gifts and 'welcomes' she received when she arrived at Pier 21.

"The ultimate 'gift' cannot be seen or touched but lived! Canada allowed me to become a Canadian Citizen, gifted me a future, one of freedom of speech and religion, the opportunity to make choices, allowing me to determine my future! I am eternally grateful to Canada for all of these gifts and privileges!"

Ausma Levalds Rowberry's Trunk is featured in the Assembly Hall in Rudolph P. Bratty Hall because that is where she was named the 50,000th Displaced Person. Ausma’s trunk features reproductions of her original International Refugee Organization documentation, an oral history interview with her, and archival footage of her at Pier 21.