Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Not the neighbourly thing

Complaint gets family evicted, landlord fired

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Jeny and Alex Kachan have known more than their share of conflict.

They never thought it would follow them to Canada like a dark shadow.

The young couple, who met in their native Russia, fled that country because continuing wars made them believe they had no future.

They moved to Israel, home of Jeny's grandfather. Alex was 25. Jeny was 24 and pregnant with their first child. They were hoping for a fresh start.

"We begin new life in Israel, in Haifa," she says in her halting English. "We find job, we bought a house, everything seemed fine."

But the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon made them rethink their decision.

"I was running from the fourth floor to the basement to hide when the (air raid) sirens came. This is no life for family, for little children."

Alex decided to train to become a long-haul trucker. He found a company willing to take him in Winnipeg and moved Jeny and their daughters to an unfamiliar country. They seemed to have left their troubles behind. What they didn't know was that fresh turmoil lived just beneath their tidy Transcona apartment.

Alex and Jeny have two children, Merial, now three, and Sharon, 11. They are no more or less noisy than average children, a fact that outraged the downstairs neighbours.

"My neighbours begin 'boom, boom, boom' on the ceiling," says Jeny, mimicking a broom handle being thrust upwards. "My children after Israel are saying 'mama, mama!' They are scaring of the booming noise.

"My husband say to the children, 'Don't move. Don't run. Don't play in the living room.'"

When Jeny had friends and their small children over during the day, the neighbour threatened to call the police.

"I was humiliated," says Jeny. "I just begin to cry."

The girls stopped having friends over. "I know I have a neighbour," says Jeny, trembling. "I know they have a life. I do my best to respect my neighbours."

"I'm afraid to move in my own house," says Jeny. "I'm very nervous with my kids. I know you can hear people in other apartments. It's the sound of life."

Mel Bennett, who has been the resident manager at Kildare Estates for almost six years, stepped in. He and his wife, Vinora, live on the same floor as the Kachan family, and have a young family of their own.

"I had to respond every time (the downstairs neighbours) complained." he says. "I went down once when they phoned me. I came back upstairs and the kids were sitting at the kitchen table doing a puzzle and eating ice cream."

The downstairs neighbours did not respond to a request for an interview.

Things came to a head this week when the Kachans received a formal eviction notice from Globe General Agencies. The family has to be out of their apartment by April 30 for reasons of "noise and disturbance."

Ron Penner, vice-president of operations for Globe, had this to say in an email: "We are working with both residents to work out a solution that'll be acceptable to both; at this point it looks at though we will be able to accommodate the needs of everyone."

That's news to the Kachan family.

When the eviction notice arrived, Bennett started a petition in the block, asking other tenants to support the young family. Only one person refused to sign.

The results of his well-intended actions were swift. On Wednesday, Globe handed Mel and Venora Bennett their walking papers.

"We have decided to release you of your caretaking responsibilities effective immediately," the note read.

Ron Penner said his company does not discuss issues related to employees. So now two young families are looking for a place to live.

Bennett says he hopes the families can find homes close to each another because he and his wife feel protective of Jeny when her husband is out of town.

"They've been through so much," he says. "This is just wrong."

And the downstairs neighbours? They're subletting their apartment. In a month or two they'll be gone.

But by then so will the Kachans and the Bennetts.

Even if Globe Realty manages to find that promised solution that will please both neighbours, Mel Bennett will still be looking for work.

And the Kachan children? They'll still fear things that go "boom, boom, boom."

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

 

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 14, 2009 A2

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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