Raphael is eating egg tarts in a Portuguese bakery on Dundas Street with Claire, a young woman from Corsica. Claire is visiting Toronto for a few days and Raphael is showing her some of the city.
Raphael's family and Claire's family first met three generations ago amid the Corsican independence conflict. Claire’s family is Coriscan; Raphael’s family is French. While Corsica is a part of France, the island has a distinct culture and has a vigorous and sometimes violent independence movement. "When I was 9 years old I remember waking up at night to an explosion, because a neighbor's house had been bombed," says Claire. Raphael’s grandfather should have been bombed too: he had been sent to the island to be the military head of northern Corsica. His predecessor had his office bombed by Corsican nationalists. And the man who took the post after him got his office bombed too.
But Raphael’s grandfather was never targeted, and the reason why is due in part to the event that drew the two families together.
It began with a tragedy: Claire's grandma's husband was the first Corsican to die fighting with French forces in the Lebanese War. To honor the sacrifice of her husband, Raphael's grandfather wanted to be the person to officially bring her the tragic news. But she lived in a remote village in the mountains where most French officials feared to travel. He went anyway. As Raphael tells it, "Despite the danger of being shot, my grandfather went up there in the uniform of a French colonel, and gave her the news. A bunch of the men in the room with her just went insane and tried to kill my grandpa
and she stopped them from doing that. Because she was extremely grateful for him. And ultimately they all respected it. It meant a lot to her that he did that. And it's one reason why our family began to get the respect of so many people on the island, and why my grandpa didn’t get his office bombed. And now, 40 years later, I'm showing her granddaughter some of Toronto."
Raphael and Claire eat the rest of their Portuguese egg tarts. She and Raphael say something in French and then go out to see more of the city. Their grandparents would be proud.