CEMA members will be saddened to learn of the passing of founder-director Kati Rekai whose amazing career embraced the penning of many articles and novels including the amusing children’s series featuring the almost-human animals, Mickey, Taggy, Puppo and Cica.
Having left her native Budapest at the time of the communist takeover, she, her surgeon husband John, their two daughters and her physician brother-in-law Paul and Paul’s wife were in Paris awaiting a posting to work in Pakistan when they learned the positions had been awarded to others.
Fortunately, a British journalist friend managed to obtain a visa for them to migrate to Canada, where they quickly learned of the hardwork to be undergone in order to qualify as medical professionals inCanada. Kati and her family moved to Kitchener where her husband internedat the Kitchener-Waterloo hospital, and then to Toronto where the two wives helped augment the family finances by picking strawberries.
Once established, the brothers Rekai founded the famed Central Hospital in midtown Toronto, which specialized in care for members ofethnocultural communities. Central was eventually absorbed into the Ontario hospital system and finally became part of a healing complexin the east central end of Toronto.
As each grandchild arrived, Kati produced another of her intelligent animal friends stories as they explored many parts of Canada, Europe,and other countries. She was awarded France’s coveted Saint-Exupery prize for international children’s literature and in1993 was appointed to the Order of Canada. She was the second winnerof CEMA’s Sierhey Khmara Ziniak Award for her contribution to multiculturalism through journalism.
Kati Rekai contributed her tireless energy to the Writers’ Union ofCanada by touring countries abroad with displays of Canadian books, thereafter donated to libraries in those countries. She was honored with honorary life membership in Writers’ Union. As a founder-director of CEMA she retired as first vice-president in 2008 but remained a member of the board of directors until her deathon on February 1, 2010. Described by The Globe and Mail as “Canada’s first lady of multiculturalism”, Kati has honored us all with an illustrious legacy.