20 Years in Canada: My Immigration Story
My past twenty years, looking back, reads very much like one story. However, my entire thirty years of life is made up of two parts, two separate stories—my childhood in Ukraine and my adolescence-turned-adulthood in Canada.
On March 28th, 1999, I stepped off the airplane. A new language drifted over me that I didn’t yet know. I was ten years old, in a foreign country. Beneath my feet sat Canadian soil, for the first time. I was just beginning to meet my new home.
I remember the day prior, my last in Ukraine, vividly. I remember leaving like it was just yesterday. I remember our street, the car and my aunt.
An identity carries a multitude of moments. Every immigrant’s story is a unique one. In my own, the heroes are my parents, for the sacrifices they made, the courage it took them, and the life they’ve given me. It wasn’t easy. In fact, I’d say it was a tricky quest, but it built resilience in all of us along the way, and was it ever worthwhile!
It’s not often I consider just how much my Ukrainian culture and upbringing have carved me into the individual I am today, but when I do, it’s clear they have. (Any pop culture reference until ’99 is wasted on me!) I had somewhat of an unusual childhood, though most immigrant children can say that. Part of it was spent away from my parents, while the remainder was spent away from the rest of my family. My mom and dad lived in the US for a few years when I was a kid, while I remained in Ukraine—something I presume a number of immigrant children can relate to.
Though perhaps out of the ordinary, I did have a wonderful and happy childhood. Looking back, it was filled with loving memories, happiness. Always, I was surrounded by some of my family. If anything, it was my parents that bore the weight of our separation from each other. At the time, I think I was too young to grasp this heaviness. Now, being old enough to understand the magnitude of their sacrifice, I am eternally grateful.
Today, the majority of our family remains in Ukraine, but there’s still a few of us here—my parents, my aunt and uncle, my two cousins. I feel lucky to have them. Being an only child, my cousins have become the siblings I never had. In particular, my eldest cousin, as we’ve shared a similar path. We were even born on the same day, just five years apart.
I am proud of my Ukrainian roots, the upbringing my family provided me, and the country that continues to give our family a chance at a different life. In Canada, each immigrant carries a special set of stories, distinct from the rest. That is what makes our country incredible. Our sense of belonging comes from our similarities and differences alike.