December 25, 2016

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 29: First Noel in Worcester

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Courtesy Augustine Kanjia

Theresa, Alice, Austin, Mary and Augustine pose outside the Cathedral of St. Paul on Christmas 2010.

There was excessive cold that November. Many neighbors and friends said the previous year was better.

Augustine Kanjia

We would walk from Ellsworth Street to School Street for classes at Lutheran Social Services [now Ascentria Care Alliance] every day till 1 p.m. or so. Chris Lamboi, our RIAC [Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center] caseworker, had also taken us to the Cathedral of Saint Paul on Chatham Street. We went there to worship on Sundays and for special devotions and prayer. The winter was not a conducive time for that without a car, but the snow was beautiful to see, I would tell my wife.

“What is beautiful about it? Plenty of water, too much cold and suffering,” Theresa would say.

“But the whiteness is very good for your eyesight,” I’d respond.

Going to class in the morning was terrible. We were marked for attendance and told we may not qualify for college if we were late or absent often. Our teacher, Monica Bond, was not ready for me to move on, it seemed, until her favorites had gone to college. Well, I thought, I should have to make my own moves. But then Monica held a special class briefing about college. “If you go to college on your own you will pay a lot of money. We have an agreement with Quinsigamond Community College that allows students from here to attend QCC free.” She said it was only possible with refugees. I was moved by this and decided to remain patient.

On several occasions, before we knew what frostbite was, the cold with the snow had caused Theresa and myself excruciating pain in the ears and fingers. Sometimes I thought I had no ears left on my head. It was worse for my nose, because it had nowhere to hide. My feet were only moving because I was alive but had very little power to carry me through to School Street every day. Theresa was often in tears; she said on several occasions that the condition was unbearable. She stayed home from class sometimes, and I told the teacher she was not feeling well. But she also did not like the idea of staying home while I went to school with those beautiful Cambodian, Kenyan and Haitian girls. So I was not too happy either.

We virtually cried walking in the snow and feared the cold, too, but we knew we had to venture out anyway. Christmas was approaching, and we needed a plan.

Augustine’s last chapter: The Kanjias’ First Snow Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale


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