51 comments already!

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I said so many times in my recipes “growing up in Ukraine” in the last 4 years, I feel like I have to demystify what we actually did growing up in Ukraine. I also hope this story will let you to get to know me better since you serve my food in your homes. And you gotta know where your food comes from.

I do not think anyone here knows me really well or at all. Blogging is very weird. It makes you vulnerable. This post is really outside of my comfort zone because it is personal. Very personal. I edited the post about 673 times. I share a personal view and so many times it is misunderstood. Internet is a place where some people suddenly feel “brave” and it is very easy to be mean. Similar to someone showing you a middle finger on a road, you approach them on a parking lot and they are ready to pee their pants. People don’t own it! I know my opinion is quite different from the masses simply because I am from a different part of the world. But we are all different with different life experiences which shape us into who we are.

It was impossible to collect photos without people in them because camera and film were scarce. Nobody took photos of food or rooms. So, that is why people everywhere but you might have a good chuckle looking at them because I surely did, even though they are my family. A family I never had…

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Well at some point I did. My parents divorced when I was 6 or 7. But things have never been going well in that department. Mom always says she should have never married my dad as she never loved him. Grandma suggested to marry him since he seemed like a great guy. Mom was a single mom which was viewed as “a disease”. So, mom did. Long story short, the only good thing that came out of it was a child – me. My half sister hated my dad and was never crazy about me, mom hated my dad, they got divorced. I saw him maybe 10 times after that.

That divorce left a huge scar on me. It was so ugly, I was so lost between all their fights and hate talk in my ears from both sides. I had nobody to talk to about it, everyone around was mad and my life went downhill since then until I met Alex pretty much. I would never feel normal because I never got to experience what family is as a kid. That is why I would never get a divorce. I know they say “never say never” but I am going to be confident and say it out loud – “I would never divorce my husband”. I would always make my marriage work because I have a great guy, Alex, and we have little things we bicker about but they are little. I ended up with Alex not by accident but by a careful choice I made as a result of my childhood experience. Of course, I dated jerks. Who didn’t, right?! But I always knew I would never marry any of them and when I met Alex I knew right away this is THE guy. 15 years later and I still feel the same although he drives me nuts sometimes! But I never feel like I want to kill him, so means the choice was right.

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Ukrainian strollers of the 80’s were Cadillacs. I have to say that everything you see here was made in limited quantities in former USSR. It was communism.  All republics – Ukraine, Russia, Belorussia, Moldova, Georgia etc. were supplied by the same manufacturers. Like everything from toilet paper (btw which we stopped buying after divorce and used newspaper) to winter coats was made by same manufacturer. No imports were allowed. You go to your friend’s house and drink tea from exactly the same cups you drink at home. At school 5 girls could show up with same backpacks and in fact it was considered cool. All professors carried exactly the same suitcases.

So, it was hard to find anything, even if you had money, stores carried limited amount of everything. This phenomenon was called “deficit”. People were paid very little but they didn’t know anything better and everyone was equal. There was no keeping up with Joneses. Life was much easier, in a way. Less stress – no mortgage payments, no leased cars, no bazillion closets of stuff, no avocado peelers and no avocados by the way.

That is why I think Charmin toilet paper is too much, wash Ziplock bags and use same patio set for 12 years. I hate waste!

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Meet Ukrainian cereal – oatmeal, rice pudding or cream of wheat (that is what is all over my face). Then we also made kind of runny cereal – cooked hot buckwheat or noodles with milk, sugar and butter. Another breakfast option were eggs, pan fried potatoes in bacon’s fat (Ukrainian salo – very tasty). Some people ate leftover borscht. Some with a shot of vodka, at 6 am, before work. Yep. All food was reheated on a gas stove, no microwaves. That is how I operate now too.

I was wearing this one and only bib I had for years passed onto me from someone else I bet – plastic with little duckies. My cousin had the same. Mom would wash it every time.

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In the evenings and on weekends, me and my cousin were the main entertainment. No TV, iPads or magazines. Are you kidding?! Newspaper in the morning had a lineup of readers and God forbid to misplace it. My grandma would be losing it on my uncle if he did. We would put on a show dancing in cotton tights. Our 60’s TV offered 3 channels and you had to use pliers to switch between channels. Not to mention it was 8 of us per one TV.

That is my great grandma and aunt in the background. I love looking at these old photos examining the furnishings, people, clothes, faces and comparing to today. How times change, right?! Rugs on walls, everything real wood, silk and wool.

Today, I can’t stand TV on every night. I fight about it with Alex all the time. There are so many other things to do in life besides TV. I also take iPads away for months after kids abuse my kindness.

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I occasionally went to daycare. It was a huge building like school size subsidized by the government with 30 kids and 2 caregivers per group. I hated it. No wonder. Who would wanna go there?! I was the shortest, food was disgusting (think liver patties with mashed split peas) and nobody cared about you, really.

The only good part were New Year’s concerts. Every year there was a different theme and mom had to make me a costume. Hand made from scratch. There was no China or Walmart. Isn’t it amazing what she made?! My costumes were always the best. No wonder I do not enjoy my kids’ concerts – I think they show barely any creativity.

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We also got our one and only yearly supply of candies and chocolates from Santa. Like that was it, people. You get occasional candy throughout the year if there was a birthday party in the family or someone came to visit. Candies were either non-existent in stores or expensive. No wonder kids were healthy!!! There was no obesity!

If you got a sudden sugar craving a staple Soviet treat was a slice of fresh baguette, with butter and sugar. Considering you had a baguette on hand because we had to buy bread daily. Bread was real so it wouldn’t keep fresh long and we ate a lot of bread. Usually it was kids’ job to go buy bread delivered by the bread truck. You had to time it and get your spot in line because bread was gone fast (similar to Xbox release lineup). That smell OMG. I swear 50% of the time by the time me and my friends got home bread was missing its ends. It made my grandma livid LOL. Or if I was sent to get butter, which was sold in bulk, placed in your plastic bag which grandma washed at home without any soap, and I got a bit sidetracked on the way home catching butterflies with friends, OMG grandma’s forehead vein was throbbing. I’m telling you, the discipline we had. I have no issues making my kids liking my food.

My mom also made a concoction of whipped egg yolks with sugar. Add those 2 in a tall mug and whip with a spoon until smooth and fluffy. Salmonella? Mixer? What are they?!

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Then was school. Entire USSR wore the same school uniform as you see on me. Girls were wearing nylon hair bow ties. School uniform was brown or navy, with these white trims that had to be hand washed and sewn on with a needle and thread a few times a week. And there was no washers or dryers. By hand and out in the air. Can you imagine?! Crazy.

I missed 1st grade for a reason mom can’t remember. I think it was the divorce. I started school in grade 2 and turned out more than fine academically. We had no kindergarten, pre-K or preschool BUT our curriculum and education system was very strong. Math skills I had by age 9 compared to my son’s are day and night. And he is always an A student although there are no grades anymore here…

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Now these are funny vacation photos. Every summer all parents tried to go on vacation “to the seas” as they said. All trips were subsidized by the government and lasted 2-3 weeks. Resorts were far away from fancy, most with a common area bathroom and just OK food. But they were almost free.

Nobody owned a camera back then, like very few better off folks. Probably professors and engineers. So, there were photographers on a beach taking photos…with various animals. I guess that was cool.

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Alex is still laughing about me sitting on a donkey. He is 12 years older than me, so he was serving in the Russian army while I was riding donkeys and camels on the beach. Well, somebody had to do that too.

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This is the photo from my 10th birthday party. The only birthday party I had, for many reasons. Money, living conditions, our family situation, my mom’s health…I still remember grandma cooking for me, sewing the dress and inviting all neighbours kids.

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This is the house I lived in majority of my childhood. A 4 bedroom apartment we shared  between 3 families. We lost our apartment in divorce so had to move in with grandma and 2 other families. I know it is hard to understand how you could share apartment but people did. By law, the communist law. Shared kitchen and bathroom, and then bedrooms. The building was built in 1920s with huge ceilings and even a small backyard.

First window on the left from the entrance door was my mom’s, grandma’s and my room. We would leave window open at night and sometimes street cats would jump in at night. More often than not running away from hungry street dogs…Living conditions were rough though. 10 people rubbing shoulders in same space for years…Since then I like to be home alone.

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Many Ukrainian schools were old architectural buildings. Something very uncommon for North America, right?! There is so much history in Europe which I still miss dearly. I don’t miss fox fur coats though. The girl in the fur coat is one of my best friends I now talk to on Facebook.The girl next to her ended up marrying my first boyfriend from that school.

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As rich our architecture was, as poor and bare the classrooms were. We really had nothing. Desks, bookshelves, plants and curtains. And the most hard working and devoted teachers I have ever seen. When my son’s teachers went on strike a few years ago claiming they buy school’s supplies with their own money I couldn’t understand…I still don’t. To me education is not about things but rather passing on knowledge. And you do not need more than a pen, some paper, a few good textbooks and a passionate teacher for that.

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While my mom’s family was living in a big city, Kiev, and everyone was a professor or a doctor, my dad was from a remote area in Moldova. Mom met him while he was studying in Kiev. This is my grandma’s house we visited occasionally in summer. There was a gravel road in front and this water well with the most delicious water ever. There was no running water or bathroom in the house in villages back then. I think people still live that way.

This was also the house we escaped to from the Chernobyl disaster (as bad as only Fukushima) back in 1986. I was 4 but distantly remember the chaos in Kiev. People were running away like crazy, mostly women with kids. Jumping onto already moving trains who cares going where, just to run away. It was like a war situation. You couldn’t get train tickets anywhere but my dad managed to. Connections was everything back then. Back doors. We stuffed ourselves on a train full of sweaty people and suitcases, sitting up all night running away from radiation to Moldova. It was a nightmare. And we showed up on grandma’s doorstep unannounced because there was no phone in that village of course.

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I also found this house in my dad’s pictures. I bet he lived in it at some point.

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Don’t you just love old pictures?! I love looking at details – clothes, hair, jewelry. My grandma holding a handkerchief, her sister holding a tree branch. Look at the floor with hay.

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This is some of my family in Siberia. I can tell judging by the ceiling and my dad’s stories. It reads in Russian “For my family to remember”, something like that. It is so hard to translate things like that.

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And this is my great grandpa visiting Canada back in late 1800’s or early 1900’s. That is what my dad told me. I wonder how did he get to Canada back then? I guess Canada was meant to be for me.

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I don’t think I miss much about life back then except the social life. I love how people were out there outside, talking and visiting each other, getting together, helping. This is a photo from a traditional wedding in Moldova. Eating, dancing and drinking of course. A lot of wine was made in Moldova because of its warm climate. And a lot of moonshine too. The very right man the closest in the picture is my grandpa, obviously having fun.

I find life in North America very secluded and socially poor. People avoid communication and everyone is on their own. Yes, there are a lot of charities (many useless by the way) but you are on your own on a day to day basis. However, if big disaster strikes people are willing to help, I admit. But daily nobody honestly cares what is happening in a neighbour’s house. On a very surface level.

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I love this photo of my uncle! Life was so simple. People were so pure. Something between naive and innocent. Like I can’t imagine Alex holding to a tree branch posing for a photo right now. You know what I mean?!

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100 years later those moustaches are baaaaaack LOL.

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This is a photo of my dad in the army (second right). Somewhere in Russia. Alex has a bunch of same photos. Soviet Union army was a nightmare Alex says. Up at 6 AM, push ups as punishment, catching doves for meat. No wonder there is no food waste in my house.

Again I love the architecture. Those fountains…I can’t wait to travel all around Europe!!!

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When I said we used to pick mushrooms, I meant it.QScan04122016_153426

And we celebrated birthdays. OMG my hair. I think I did that haircut myself because I had no money. I love this photo – again table loads of Ukrainian food, wine, weird wall paper.

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OK, I think this is the most bizarre photo that sums up Ukrainian culture overall – we like to be merry. Man, this is so weird even to me now but back then it was considered totally OK. Like pouring wine in Kiev airport’s parking lot to celebrate someone’s arrival…I still remember when my dad came to visit once back in 2008 he was walking my oldest one with a can of beer in a stroller at 11 am. And then I remember one time he opened a bottle of beer in a car…I know, pretty crazy?! You should have seen his eyes when I told him drinking in public areas and cars is against the law. He didn’t believe me for days.

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And this is the last and most dearest photo to me – me and all my girlfriends saying good byes 2 days before we left to Canada. October 16th, 2000 me and mom flew to Edmonton via Amsterdam and Vancouver. I will never forget my first flight at 19. $10 MacDonald’s burger in Amsterdam’s airport which me and mom shared – $100 was all she had. Me nervously having a smoke in Vancouver’s airport thinking “OMG what has happened to me”. My immigration story is for another day.
I found so much happiness, peace and comfort in North America for which I will be grateful forever. I feel like I have won the lottery because very few people get to escape Ukraine and many wish they could. But I can’t deny there is me “before” and “after”, I will never feel Canadian and make friends easily. Can’t have everything in life, can’t you?! But at same time you can take the best out of it and be happy every single day you are healthy and alive.

This is my story and I am grateful I have one, no matter which turn it took. Did you make it till the end LOL?!

Have a great weekend, my friends! Life is beautiful!

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51 Comments

  1. Rebecca

    I love these kinds of stories, it shines a light on a perspective that is (literally) so foreign for many of us in Canada. My dad is an immigrant from Venezuela and my mom is the child of Latvian immigrants and even then their childhood seems so removed from my own. I admire the tenacity and spirit of immigrants, it takes a lot of courage to uproot yourself and to move to a new country.
    Thank you for sharing your story 🙂

    Reply
    • Olena

      Well said. Immigrants have this drive to succeed because they had nothing. That is why they immigrated in a first place – for better life. So it better be their worthwhile the sacrifice they made. My kids are very different from me because they were born here. They are a hybrid between locals and immigrants haha. I work hard to develop competitive spirit in them to be your best. That is why we do hockey – discipline, team spirit, competitiveness. And I can see great results. Work hard, play hard. There are so many opportunities in North America to have a good life. It is all up to you. Money is not everything but a big part of good life. You just have to go for it!
      Latvia was a republic in former USSR by the way.

      Reply
  2. Laura

    Oh wow, these photos and stories are incredible. Thank you for sharing! I love reading your blog because of your voice (and great recipes of course) and this gives such a cool context.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Glad to hear. I would love to share my immigration story. Just need to find some photos. There weren’t many. I was too busy haha.

      Reply
  3. Vera (@ Vera'sCooking)

    My family immigrated to USA in 1994. I remember all those lines to get bread and milk, school uniforms…true friends…Story of my life! Great post, Olena! I enjoyed reading it!!!!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Well, we touched based a few of those points over coffee already.:) Good organic coffee btw. Have a great weekend, dear!

      Reply
  4. Kayla

    Thanks for sharing your story! I love learning about other cultures, it’s so interesting. I live in the Midwest USA, born and raised. We were poor growing up, too, my parents are farmers. It teaches you to appreciate what you have. Kids are growing up in a totally different atmosphere now because we live in such a throw away society, it’s too bad. It makes me glad I grew up when I did. Thanks again for getting so personal, I know it’s hard!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Me too. I love learning how was Canada and the US in the 60s. Like what did people eat and wear? How did they look? It is fascinating. I love looking at food back then like groceries I mean.
      I know. Kids have no value of money and things. I remember grandma chuckling at my generation how different we are. Haha can’t imagine what she would have said about today’s kids. I am too happy to have grown without all this technology. Drives me nuts. It makes kids literally stupid. Ugh. I hate it. Rant over.

      Reply
  5. Karen

    Olena! Thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing your life with us!! You have a lot of courage. Remember you are not alone, I am a phone call away. Another mom trudging along like you, trying to do the best for my children and not kill my husband LOL! I will give you a big hug the next time I see you!! Hugs.
    Karen (a fellow immigrant from England)

    Reply
    • Olena

      Awe. Thank you, Karen. You will see me very soon, at the rink. Where else haha?! We should hang out more without kids.

      Reply
  6. Liz

    Thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing your story! I loved this post and found it so, so interesting. I especially loved hearing about the values you’ve taken into adulthood based on your experiences growing up; as an ESL teacher I have so much respect for immigrant communities and families and all of the hard work they put into uprooting their lives and adjusting to so much newness around them. I would love a follow-up post on what your first months and years in Canada were like. Thank you again!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Liz. I didn’t know you read my blog.:) Thank you for your kind words. I will write an immigration post for sure! I really enjoyed writing this post.
      Today my neighbour introduced her 11 year old niece that moved with her family from India and arrived just yesterday. It was very interesting talking and watching new immigrants. I love interacting with people with different backgrounds. You have a very important job! You do a lot of good for us. I had great English when I immigrated so was able to work and go to university right away but so many people don’t. ESL for adults is everything so they can go study or get education thus feed their families.
      Hope your little ones are doing well. I checked your blog a few months ago and hit a feeling you must be busy haha.

      Reply
  7. Michelle @ Vitamin-Sunshine

    I love this post, and I am so glad you finally wrote it! Your stories about the Ukraine are what really drew me to your blog– but then our similar eating and cooking styles is why I have continued to follow it!

    I also love hearing your perspective– I am from America, but have lived in Asia for most of my 20s and 30s, so I am an outsider with a different opinion and worldview on the other side of the world from you 🙂 It never felt so important until this past year when my husband and I had a child– and boy does that change who you are in such a major way.

    These photos are amazing! You have always been such a beautiful woman.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Kids are a life changer that is impossible to explain until you go through it yourself. Everything in life gets a different meaning. You know.
      You should write how it is to be an American living in Asia. I always love to read those posts! They are funny haha.
      Thank you for your kind words.
      Are you guys planning on coming back permanently soon?

      Reply
  8. nancyabc

    I grew up in the 1950–no air conditioners.
    I’d be outside all day and so would the neighbors.
    Putting laundry on the line, tending gardens or getting after kids.
    But as for have friends we all have to work on it.
    Even if you move across countries or states or cities it’s hard to build a band of or just one friend.
    I’ve found friends in book clubs and recipe clubs.
    Hope you find your circle of friends.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Moving from New York to LA and moving from the US to China for example are two different things. You will be surprised how few people would be open to understanding and building a relationship with you when you are not one of them. When they have enough of their own around them that they have to put barely any effort into. The main difference is the cultural differences. What we do, how we say things etc. For example, if I invite myself over for coffee to your house you might consider it borderline offensive where as me and my Italian friend consider it is a norm because that is how we grew up in Europe. It is the fact. That is why immigrants usually stick together in communities.

      Reply
      • Christiane

        I agree with you totally. I was born and grew up in France with a french father and a wonderful Ukrainian mother this is why I was drawn to your blog even more after your story. I am living in Australia and like in Canada all immigrants stick together and I would not dare invite myself for coffee in an Australian house but I do it with my spanish,french , italian etc… friends. It is the norm in Europe as you said. I love all our recipes I am so glad I have found you.

        Reply
        • Olena

          Hi Christiane. I am so glad you have discovered my blog. When we first moved into our house, one night I discovered my Italian neighbour drinking wine with my husband on a couch at 5PM. She invited herself over and I am sure my husband offered wine LOL. Since then we have been very good friends and now got even closer. We share food, go to each other house for missing ingredients and come over for coffee and wine with a knock on a door. She is moving 3 minutes away from me now which is still OK but I will miss her a lot. I guess what I miss the most is not making individual friends but rather the social life we had in Europe – lots of people on streets, interacting, getting together. People wanted to be with each other. Canadians and Americans are great people with great heart but the culture is more to themselves. More introverted. Friendships are more structured by interests like chicken wings pub lovers, bikers, book club, yoga, gym etc. Dinners and dates have to be scheduled months in advance and it has to be an occasion. Which I respect since nobody asked me to move here, so I understand I got to play by this country’s rules. I get it, I just miss what I had in Ukraine – people! The more the merrier haha. I also really do not appreciate and want to do nothing with immigrants who move here and judge and badmouth everything here. Then go home or adjust. I have met a lot of those and it is one of the reasons why we are not close to Russian or Ukrainian community. Plus where we live we have very few of them.

          Reply
  9. Jennifer

    I love your story Olena, I’m so happy for you that you found your passion and live your life so bravely following your dreams and taking risks. True role model. We miss you here in Calgary, but Vancouver is clearly the best place for you!!! Xoxo best wishes always.

    Reply
  10. Cameron

    Hi Olena. I love your recipes and your approach to food and cooking. I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply
  11. Marla

    Thank you for sharing Olena! I love learning about other cultures. And since you are one of my favorite bloggers, it was fun to learn about you, too:)

    Reply
  12. Sandy

    What an amzing story!!! My grandparents came from near Kiev, via Canada and settled in Connecticut where my mother was born. My mother used to get letters from cousins in Kiev asking for medical supplies and medicine. Definitely a very different life!! Thank you so very much for sharing! Glad you made it to N. America and still appreciate your heritage!!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Sandy. I remember a few of my friends having relatives who immigrated to the US. They were sending them parcels and the contents were like GOLD. After American candy was consumed, we played with its wrap for days, placing it under a piece of broken beer bottle, hiding in sand and going treasure hunting. That kid was usually wearing one outfit for special occasions that was from the US and was the coolest of course. When I was a teenager a Jewish girl’s family, my friend, won a green card. So, she moved to LA and was sending me thrift store clothes with whoever came back to Kiev. Wow, those few dresses, shirts and head bands were priceless. So, I can completely relate to the parcel movement.

      Reply
  13. Karla

    I love reading this post, I felt related to your experience as I have only 3 and a half years living in North Carolina (USA), I come from the Caribbean and we are very friendly people and give lots of hugs (which I cannot do here). The hardest part of the process was to achieve the adaptation of our son who came at 8 years old. In short at my house we all like the food you prepare and thank you so much for the detail to explain each part of the preparation. Until next time

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Karla. No, you can’t do that here. Neither you can show up on a door step unannounced for a cup of coffee. Everything has to be planned and agreed upon. Just the way it goes. Not bad, not good, just different culture.
      Caribbean people are amazing! So warm, welcoming and kind. Very extraverted. So kind and you feel so welcome right away and can be yourself. We hosted a student from Mexico and she was like our daughter. Later she came to visit with her parents and they were so warm and open from the get go. Now she is coming to visit in summer. When we went to Jamaica we just loved the culture!
      Your boy will do fine. We have seen many children of various ages adapting just fine. 8 is young enough to have a mentality of an American. I wish I came at 8.
      Thank you and glad you are enjoying. What part of Caribbean are you from?

      Reply
      • Karla

        Hi Olena, I’m from Dominican Republic. I laughed when you mentioned the unannounced visits, but as you said is just a different culture. I am glad that you were able to share something of yourself with your dear readers 🙂

        Reply
  14. Kate Nazarenko

    Olena! You are so wonderful for sharing your story! It resonated with me deeply. It brought up so many sweet memories. I love my memories and need to remember about them more often.
    I miss my school and my school uniform and my white aprons and colorful hair ribbons. I loved the smell of freshly baked bread and also loved biting loaf ends. I loved going to the countryside for the summer to visit my granny and grandpa. Their life was so simple and rich at the same time. No bathroom or running water was just a fun adventure and I loved every bit of it.
    Thank you for this post and thank for your creative and tasty recipes.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Kate. I agree! I miss the adventures of simple life. So true. That is why I do not let anyone watch TV at nights lately. That pushes you to enjoy simple things in life. With all this technology it is hard to disconnect, I struggle myself. But once we do, we usually have fun and good laughs.
      Summers were the best part of that life. Exploring outside from sunrise to the dawn. It was so much fun and excitement. Because now we have everything it is hard to get excited about anything, right?! First world problem. A good problem to have though.
      You are very welcome.:)

      Reply
  15. Shanna

    Oh Olena, thank you for sharing your story, it was a fascinating glimpse into your life before and after your move to the U.S. I was born and raised in the U.S., in a rural midwestern town, and life was far different in the 60’s and 70’s, when I grew up, than it is now. We always had people stopping by unannounced for coffee or meals or just to visit. We NEVER locked our doors, and sometimes you would walk into your own kitchen and find someone standing at the sink because you didn’t hear them knock and they just came on in! And now…it is so different. You are right, we live in our own homes, and visits must be planned in advance…it makes me sad. I guess it is just a symptom of our culture being influenced by all the busyness and technology and other things–besides people–that fill our lives. I used to swear when I was little that when I grew up I would live somewhere where we weren’t “bothered” by all the unexpected company….and now I would give anything to have those days back. Be careful what you wish for lol. I hope you can find a group of friends like you had before. It takes time, but it can be done, truly. Thank you again for sharing.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Shanna. Yes, it is the technology and busyness. It is all those materialistic things that mankind has created. It replaced communication, friends and for some people even families. Me and Alex honestly have almost an allergic reaction when we want to connect with people or hang out, or you simply ask how they are doing and all you hear back “Oh, we are so busy. So busy.”. Busy with what? It is usually a bazillion of kids’ sports, maintaining our mansions, shopping for more stuff and working to buy more of previously mentioned. Man, slow down and enjoy the moment because you never know when is your last day.
      We have 2 great couples we are close with. We have way more long distance because we moved so many times even in Canada. Of course, there are more true friendships for me ahead. My problem is I work from home so I stopped meeting people like I used to before. I do not think I need a big group anymore. That was when we were teenagers and now when you have a family you just need a few loyal friends.
      Thank you for sharing your story! I LOVE learning how America lived in 50s-80s.

      Reply
  16. angela

    Thanks for sharing this. It really helps me to understand my Ukrainian husband better. My father in law is moving in with us next week, from Ukraine. So this post came at just the right time. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Olena

      Oh, you have a Ukrainian husband?! I am always fascinated with how love is universal when I meet multicultural couples. Moving to Canada I was so scared I will never get married which is funny. Now I could totally see myself marrying a Canadian if I haven’t met Alex. I mean it would have been totally fine. Living in Ukraine we had no exposure to North Americans so I was scared LOL.
      Your FIL probably will be very frugal and “mean” sometimes. You know what I mean. I occasionally hear from women that I am “mean”.:)

      Reply
      • angela

        Yes that is what I love about my husband! And about Ukrainians in general. In america we think its ”mean” but it is just honesty. Ukrainians seem to be generally very open. A good quality if you ask me! 🙂

        Reply
  17. Aggie

    I have been wanting to take the time to read this since I saw you post it a few days ago…I love looking through the photos and learning more about you!! Like I’ve said before, I can relate to a lot of the old customs and ways of living. No waste! You are such a beautiful girl, I love the photos on you on the donkey and camel and hearing about your vacations. Seeing your 10th birthday party warmed my heart. I’m so glad someone captured these memories for you with a camera!! Old photos are the best! xoxoxo

    Reply
    • Olena

      I knew you would read it given your rich heritage.:) You made me realize that majority of those photos I have no idea who captured them. Even photos of me. Interesting.
      Well, thank you. I was an average girl. I am definitely self conscious. Having said that, I do not suffer from being too critical over my looks. Now, I am quite happy with my physique and know what to hide and what to show off.:) Like any woman. Funny you mention about me being a beautiful girl because all my childhood I have heard absolutely the opposite. My older half sister was considered a beauty queen in our family and my grandma always was worried how will I get married because of me being not so pretty. It was particularly my nose that got majority of concerns. Mom calmed her down saying they will curl my hair and put make up on. All those conversations in front of me made me very insecure and I never considered myself pretty. Until I met Alex who made me feel like a princess and only then I understood what a bunch of BS those remarks were. I was “a regular” child (as much as this concept exists), I just think the hate they had for my dad was stronger than common sense. He truly wasn’t a nice person but the hate was a bit overboard as well.

      Reply
  18. Deb Wilson-Smith

    Olena – I have just discovered your blog/site and love it! I will be making many return visits, I’m sure. Thank you so much for sharing your story of growing up in the Ukraine. It was very brave of you and I appreciate that you did! It was a joy to read.
    I spent the first decade and a half of my married life in the UK (after growing up on a small farm in Northern Ontario). I too miss the European culture with people in and out, and the smaller house, where we didn’t seem to accumulate so much stuff!
    I have been very lucky to have made some amazing friends since we returned to Canada, where we can wander into each other’s houses without much notice other than a text ‘are you home’?
    Best of luck with your blog – BTW, I found it linked from Greatest.com. Clearly the good word is getting around!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Deb. Awe,thank you! I love Greatist and recently did a pilot article on dinners with them and couldn’t believe how many interested visitors it brought. Greatist is great!
      Smaller house is nice for sure but somehow I can’t convince myself to sell my big house. You would think it is all up to me, right?! But prices in Vancouver keep rising like crazy so it really is an investment. So, big house it is for now. Can’t complain though.
      Ironically as soon as I posted about my childhood, new doors opened up and I met some amazing people, even my age (doesn’t happen often to me idk why). So, I really hope our friendships flourish into the friendships you have. I am 100% positive it is all ahead for me. I just need to get out more from my big house LOL.
      Take care and please let me know if you make any recipe.:)

      Reply
  19. Marta

    Thank you for sharing! I grew up in Ukraine in the 90s. Don’t remember much, but everything you described seems so familiar! Glad not to be there now ☺.

    Reply
  20. Stephanie

    Thanks for sharing! I was born in Luxembourg and immigrated with my family in the 90’s, and although Luxembourg is different from the Ukraine, I can definitely relate to some of the things you said!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Stephanie. Totally, because you are an immigrant. I can’t wait to share my immigration story.

      Reply
  21. Katie

    I love this post! It’s so interesting to know someone’s “story.” You have a lot of good observations and opinions of life that I agree with and respect. Thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Thank you so much, Katie. Me too – I always love to hear people’s life stories. I think everybody does as humans are noisy, in a good way I mean (mostly:)).

      Reply
  22. Cheryl

    Your story is so beautifully written, the photos filling in what our imagination could not. Thank you for sharing your past, your home of origin and your heart. I was sorry to come to the end.
    I am thoroughly enjoying your blogs, recipes and advice. You feel like the neighbor friend I always wanted. Thanks again. I look forward to learning more from you. Peace to you and your family.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Hi Cheryl. Thank you so much for your kind wishes and words. I am working on an immigration story now.:) If only there were enough hours in a day. Summer seems so busy. Haha about neighbours. I know what you mean. My neighbour like that just moved and it is sad. I wish I had more neighbours like her and me too. Crazy neighbours we say.:)

      Reply

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