Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Toronto, Canada
Passport saved Canadian hostage
Held hostage at gunpoint by Palestinian extremists in the Gaza Strip, Mark Budzanowski feared for his life – until his captors discovered his passport and declared 'We love Canada'
Mark Budzanowski could almost feel his captors' mood sag when they rifled through his pockets and found his passport. The word Canada on the cover was a blow to the dozens of masked men who surrounded him in the nondescript basement somewhere in the Gaza Strip. They thought they had kidnapped an American.
At first, the men in the masks didn't believe their eyes, and questioned the 57-year-old aid worker about Canada and about specific shops near Mr. Budzanowski's residence on Carlton Street in Toronto.
When they were finally convinced that Mr. Budzanowski was not an American in disguise, he said, they started treating him more politely, and handling him less roughly.
"When they were certain I was Canadian, they were very disappointed. Then, they told me, 'We love Canada.' That's wonderful to hear when you have guns pointed at you," an exhausted Mr. Budzanowski said yesterday in a telephone interview shortly after he was released after almost 30 hours as a hostage.
"It's wonderful to have a Canadian passport because it changes people's minds. One of the guards kept asking me to say hello to Canada, so it does stand for something."
His former captors had taken a liking to him toward the end of the hostage-taking and one — the one who kept asking him to say hello to Canada — even gave him a phone number to call if he ever needed the help of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
"I don't intend to use it, but I believe he meant it," Mr. Budzanowski said with a chuckle.
He was one of 11 foreigners taken hostage by Palestinian gunmen on Tuesday after the Israeli army attacked a prison in the West Bank city of Jericho, eventually capturing militant leader Ahmed Saadat and five other wanted men who had been in Palestinian custody. All the foreign hostages have since been released.
"Indifference to another's suffering is, literally, an act of cruelty." - Judy Stone
"It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong." - G. K. Chesterton