The Soul of a Shoemaker: A Heart-Wrenching Tale of Love and Triumph from Communist Yugoslavia to Canada

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A Shoemaker struggles to survive in an oppressed society. Can he outsmart the brutal regime before he becomes the next victim?

In 1950s Yugoslavia, master cobbler Frank Katana must make a harrowing decision: stay and face certain death, or flee to Canada and leave everything he knows and loves behind. But in a new country, Frank must navigate the struggles of building a new life and the ache of longing for his family, his true love and his homeland in this heart-wrenching story of survival and sacrifice.

My father, Frank Katana, escaped communist Yugoslavia on foot over sixty years ago and found his way to Canada, where he started a shoe empire.

He left everything behind to escape from a brutal regime. He believed he would have a better life for himself and his family if he could have the opportunity to thrive in a free country. This story is a glimpse into his life on the farm, his challenges living under the communist dictatorship in Yugoslavia, and his dramatic escape to freedom in Canada.

The Soul of a Shoemaker is a fascinating story, an homage, and a retelling of my father’s journey to Canada with absolutely nothing in his pockets and how he built something spectacular. Born early in 1932, in the Croatian part of Yugoslavia, to parents who were farmers, Frank Katana apprenticed with shoemakers after the devastating war.

“I was the only one who could never really adapt to the farm life. I was always looking for something easier than farming. I always wanted to achieve something on my own, whether in Austria or somewhere else.”

The somewhere else would be Canada, but not without the kind of horrifying close calls once so familiar to people who attempted to leave Eastern Europe and so unknown to most Canadians.

The painful memories of escape and resurgence in the new world are still there, but so is the drive that made it possible.

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