It was a long trip from Europe to Canada, but Michael Treuman’s travels over the course of his life brought him to settle at the base of Blue Mountain.
For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Treuman, 79, land steward with the Blue Mountains Bruce Trail Club and actor.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: I was born in Latvia.
My father was of peasant stock. He married a lady who was born during the Russian revolution and was on the wrong side of that revolution. Her father was the mayor of Moscow at that time.
They met in Berlin and I was born right in the middle of the war. Two years after I was born, we became war refugees. I spent my grade school years in Germany.
Then, my father died. My mother’s Russian relatives, who were scattered all over the world due to the Russian revolution, invited us to move to Canada.
At the age of 11, I moved to Montreal. I spent my teenage years there, and I went to university there.
Q: What did you attend university for?
A: I studied mechanical engineering. When I look back on it, I chose mechanical because I could see how it works.
I worked for a big corporation, but because I wasn’t a Francophone, Quebec wasn’t an ideal place so I moved and wound up in Toronto.
In Montreal, I had access to the country and I would go skiing or waterskiing year-round.
I thought, could I do this in Toronto? Muskoka was too far away.
Then, I discovered Collingwood. So, 22 years ago I bought a townhouse condo here and I’ve been at least a weekender ever since.
Q: Do you live up here full-time now?
A: I go down to Toronto one day a week to deliver Meals on Wheels at Sunnybrook Hospital but the rest of the week, I’m up here. I live near the foot of the Blue Mountains.
When COVID-19 finally settles down, who knows? There are a lot of unknowns ahead of us.
Q: You participate in a lot of local endeavours in South Georgian Bay. Can you tell me about your volunteer work?
A: I joined the Blue Mountains Bruce Trail Club about 22 years ago as a hiker. There are volunteer roles there. I have been a trail captain, board member, a land steward. I still do a lot of those. I recently became a land steward.
Q: What is a land steward?
A: About a third of the Bruce Trail is government property/provincial parks, a third is privately owned, and a third is owned by the Bruce Trail conservancy itself. The pieces that are owned by the conservancy is called a land trust. Each parcel has a land steward who patrols the boundaries and maintains it, through invasive species or rare species.
I’m responsible for 14 acres. I patrol the boundaries twice a year, and I do garlic mustard removal and Japanese knotweed removal.
Q: What is it about conservation that makes you want to volunteer your time in that way?
A: As a kid, I used to go to a two-month summer camp. I was a water-ski, shooting and sailing instructor. When you grow up in the outdoors, it becomes a part of you.
When I went through university, I worked in a boys' home and my university fees were paid by the Rotary Club.
I’ve had a good run in my lifetime, and people were good to us. Now that I’m older, I give back.
We don’t always understand the ‘why,’ and if we look closely, we can discover it.
Q: You’re also an actor, recently taking part in the Gaslight Community Theatre production Cemetery Stories. What drew you to acting?
A: I’m turning 80 soon. I went to a performance of some older people doing some acting. I thought, who would have guessed a woman nearing 80 could do Shakespeare? She did it.
Ryerson University has a program called Act II. It’s a theatre studio for people over 50. There are 180 members, and we continuously take courses and put on performances. I’ve been taking courses there for about seven years.
I’ve been a serious person all my life. Acting is about playing. You can play something outside of your real life. That’s the attraction for me.
Cemetery Stories was my first foray into local theatre. It’s been decades since I’ve been as warmly received as I was by the Gaslight people.
Acting, as is volunteering, is addictive.
Q: Are there any other volunteer endeavours around town you like to participate in that you’d like to talk about?
A: There’s another group I’m involved with that’s still cooking. It’s a group that’s being formed... called the Community Support Group. Some of the local pastors of small churches are (working together) to identify the problems in our community. We’re trying to come up with some solutions. We’re looking to possibly provide some financial assistance to families who may be struggling. We’re starting a little project on that.
In our community, there are some well-to-do people. The problem isn’t just money. The problem is trying to make things happen.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?
A: I’m a very curious person. I’m always learning.
For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email [email protected].