Since Marianna Juhasz couldn’t be there to see her son Patrik graduate, his school decided to bring the ceremony to her.
On Monday, in front of dozens of friends, supporters and members of the Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Patrik’s principal, Rob Comeau of Abbotsford Senior Secondary, presided over the graduation ceremony, as Patrik, dressed in his cap and gown, received his diploma.
The Juhasz family, including Marianna, Patrik and younger son Tamas, sought sanctuary at Walnut Grove Lutheran in December 2014 after being ordered deported back to their home country of Hungary. Marianna said they were fleeing abuse by the boys’ father and don’t feel it’s safe to return there. They have lived inside the church ever since.
“I received a phone call from Patrik’s mom saying she couldn’t come to the ceremony and she requested that she see him graduate. So we brought Patrik’s grad to her,” said Comeau.
“Patrik is such a neat kid who has been going through a very difficult time. It’s nice to be able to celebrate something good. Graduation happens only once in a lifetime and his family should see it.”
“This is very exciting,” said Marianna. “I’m very proud of Patrik.”
In early 2015, Patrik and Tamas were able to resume their studies, thanks to an agreement with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) that allows them to leave the church without fear of arrest, in order to attend school and participate in after-hours sports.
Juhasz was grateful the CBSA was willing to negotiate a compromise that benefits her sons.
“I’m so happy the boys (can) go outside,” she said.
Patrik wanted to finish his schooling with his friends at Abbotsford. But in order to graduate with his friends, he had to do two years of schooling in one. It also meant finding a family near the school who would take him in.
That’s where the the Schouten family came in. They offered their home and that’s where he has spent the school year, every Monday to Friday, returning to the church on the weekend to be with his mom and brother.
“His work ethic is unbelievable for his age. Patrik got up at 5:30 a.m. twice a week, to be at school by 7 a.m. just so he could finish all his schooling. He is such a kind and compassionate person. He was a joy to have,” said Arlen Schouten, who Patrik calls ‘gramma.’
Patrik said he is happy he was able to bring the ceremony to his mom, offering her lots of hugs at the ceremony. Afterward, he cut his graduation cake.
Since graduating, he is playing for the Langley Rams football team, will work and plans to volunteer this summer.
“I want to be a mechanic, so I’m hoping to go to BCIT,” said Patrik.
Tamas said he was very proud of his big brother. In Grade 8 at Walnut Grove Secondary, Tamas can walk to school and loves it there. He wants to pursue basketball.
“My mom was crying so much because she couldn’t see my brother graduate, so this is good but my mom has been in this church for too long. She is sad a lot,” he said.
“I hope for freedom,” said Marianna.
The family has lawyers who are going to file a new application in July to allow them to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds.
“This family, with their work ethic and ideals, exemplify what it is to be Canadian,” said Schouten.