Did you know that the world’s shortest international bridge has been under Hungarian ownership since 1976?! The 9.5 meters long bridge crosses the St. Lawrence River, between the borders of the United States and Canada.
The nearly 1,200-kilometre-long St. Lawrence River served as the main transport route for European explorers, such as Jacques Cartier, the namesake of Canada. The huge river surrounds approximately 1,692 islands (according to other sources even more), whose size varies greatly – ranging from 0.09 m2 to 103.6 km2. While on the smaller sand heaps only a bush or a family house can be discovered, the larger islands give a home to entire communities.
Among the archipelagos of the river, the most exciting pair of lands are the Zavikon Islands, which means “Happy Tent” in the Indian language. The larger island has a territory of 1.5 hectares, while the smaller Kiwa is only 0.5 hectare.
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After the border between the United States and Canada had been set along the St. Lawrence River in 1793, the more extensive land got into the ownership of Ottawa, while Washington owned the smaller one. In 1902, Elmer Andress entrepreneur built his “German-style” villa on the larger Canadian island of Zavikon. The merchant wanted to build a vegetable garden and a pier around his home that could be realised on the smaller Kiwa island. This was the point when the 9.5-meter-long wooden bridge was created between the two lands, that enabled him to cross the two islands easily.
Due to its speciality, the tiny bridge was named as the “backyard border crossing” by the North American press who also considered the wooden crossing as “the world’s shortest international bridge”.
Due to the propaganda, the larger island was hoisted by the British Empire (Canada had an independent flag from 1931), and the United States flagged the smaller one. Even a geodetic stone was erected in the middle of the smaller land. In 1967, the American-Canadian Boundary Commission placed the smaller island under Canadian jurisdiction, setting the new border 140 meters southwest of the southern tip of the former U.S. island. This amendment is still valid today.
Due to the respect of traditions, the family living on the island still hoist the flags of the former dominating lords of the two river gems; accordingly, the Hungarian flag is also adorned in the middle of the small wooden bridge. No trick!
In 1976, the islands were bought by the Toronto-based Donald Rickerd and his wife of Hungarian descent, Julie Rékai Rickerd.
According to falanszter.blog.hu, Julie’s ancestors were among the elite of Canadian social life. Her mother, Kati Rékai was born in Budapest in 1921, under the name of Katalin Desider. With her husband Dr János Rékai, they escaped from the Hungarian communist regime in 1948. First, the family emigrated to Paris and then to Canada. Kati Rékai became famous for her 20-volume children’s book series, introducing the diversity of environment to the world’s multiethnic children. She was a leading member of the Canadian Writers Association, and had a significant role in the international promotion of Canadian literature – she organised reading tours, introductions and exhibitions for overseas authors. She considered the preservation of culture and relations of emigrant communities as one of her main tasks. The North American press also called her the “First Lady of Toronto.” Ottawa rewarded her work with the Canadian Cross of Valour.
Julie’s father, Dr János Rékai, was a surgeon who – along with his brother, Dr Pál Rékai – established Canada’s first “multicultural” hospital in 1957, communicating in 36 different languages. The medical centre and nursing home now operate as one of Toronto’s central hospitals. Dr János Rékai was also awarded the Canadian Cross of Valour.
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