The Villages - May 2018 - 47

Bonnie Virag

oVercomes adVersity
to share her Foster care story
Story By Mark anderSon

"Adversity will either make you bitter or better."
These are the words heading one of the chapters of Bonnie
Virag's book, "The Stovepipe."
Written in the interest of helping and inspiring others who
may have faced a similar situation, "The Stovepipe" recounts
Virag's experiences as a foster child and how she overcame many
of the difficult circumstances in which she found herself.
No stranger to adversity, Virag grew up as part of the foster
care system in Canada in the 1940s and '50s. As a child, she
experienced more mistreatment and hardship than most people
do in their entire lives.
Born to a family of 18 children in
Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, Virag's family
did not have much in the way of assets
and often was hungry. Despite her
family's destitute situation, she still was
happy spending time with her siblings
and parents.
When Virag was 4 years old, a black
car pulled up to her house and took her
and four of her siblings away and placed
them into foster care without warning.
Filled with questions, Virag was
shuffled from foster family to foster family,
sometimes with or without her siblings.
In one instance, she and three of her
sisters were sent to live with a family
on a tobacco farm where they were put
to work in the tobacco fields. There, they worked long hours
without pay and were kept in a cold, unfinished attic with only
a stovepipe to keep them warm and allow them to listen to what
was happening in the house down below.
Virag eventually graduated from high school, met her
husband and settled down, but her time in the foster care system
left an indelible impression on her that still affects her today.
Even now, Virag still has many unanswered questions.
"Why weren't we taken away from this horrible home?" Virag
said. "Why were we taken away from our parents in the first
place? They took us from the frying pan and put us in the fire."
Time passed and Virag moved on with her life, however, she
still wanted to do more research into why she and some of her

siblings were taken from their home in the first place.
While doing her research, Virag discovered what she describes
as "a multitude of judgmental errors, lies and cover-ups" in
regard to the foster care system at the time.
Since then, Virag has been an advocate for protecting
foster children and improving the foster care system overall. She
wanted to share her story with the world and bring attention
to some of the children who, in her words, "fell through
the cracks."
According to Virag, "The Stovepipe" has received plenty
of attention from former foster children
and families, along with social service
organizations.
She says changes have been made to
how social services and foster care groups
talk to children placed with foster families
since she was in the system.
"Rather than interviewing these kids
in front of their foster families, I've heard
that children's aid services have been told to
go to schools to talk to children to ask how
things are going rather than ask the foster
care family," Virag said.
Since publishing her book, Virag has
reconnected with many of her missing
family members.
"Once the book came out, a lady emailed
me and told me, 'I've read your book - I'm
your niece and my father is your youngest brother, Joe.'" Virag
said. "Through her help, she made a date to meet with (my sister)
Daisy, Joe and (my brother) Jack at her house."
Virag since has found many of her other siblings, and she
still gets together regularly with some of her biological family
members.
In writing her memoirs, Virag was not looking to make
a quick buck or shock readers. Instead, her goal was to help
prevent other children from experiencing the horrors she did.
"I think that every child who's brought into this world should
have a happy childhood," Virag said. "I made sure that when
I brought up my kids they were loved and looked after. I didn't
want them to go through what we had to."
MAGAZINE

47



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Villages - May 2018

Contents
The Villages - May 2018 - Cover1
The Villages - May 2018 - Contents
The Villages - May 2018 - 1
The Villages - May 2018 - 2
The Villages - May 2018 - 3
The Villages - May 2018 - 4
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The Villages - May 2018 - Cover4
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