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A few months ago, I shared how I grew up in Ukraine which many of you have enjoyed and told me were sad when it was over. Well, what a better time than Christmas to share my “fresh off the boat” story with you. I am all cooked out, you are all shopped out, and probably holidays is really the only time you have time to read. No new recipes till January 1st. So, grab a cup of jo with Bailey’s or not and enjoy.

Christmas always brings back memories of my first days in Canada because we came late October in 2000. I remember everything was so new and timid. I remember strolling full of snow streets and staring at brightly decorated houses, huge Christmas trees and socks hanging on the fireplace. My immediate thought from day one was “How much stuff and money these people have!”. I remember buying a notepad for $2 at a nearby pharmacy to track my tips, and walking back home looking at all this abundance of stuff. I really thought everyone around me, except me, was rich.

I learnt that flowers in a form of poinsettia for Christmas are OK. Candy canes, coffee with Bailey’s, hot chocolate wasn’t hard to figure out. Everywhere and everyone seemed to have a Christmas party to go to. I remember a co-worker asking me to bring a Caesar’s salad to a Christmas potluck, sending me into shock. Or she said a seven layer dip would work. What on Earth is any of that?! Then it was her turn to stare at me.

No, seriously, even until this day people’s honest dismay at me not knowing some local specialties still shocks me. North American culture is very different from African, European etc. Why people are so surprised I don’t know what a fruit cake, buckeyes or a White Russian is?!Especially they see I have an accent. So, Christmas definitely was a big adjustment for someone “fresh off the boat”. But 16 years later I finally feel like I got it 80% lol. Without a sweet potato casserole though. If you have a great healthy recipe I’m all ears otherwise I don’t think I will ever understand the marshmallow stuff.

So… I really didn’t want to immigrate but deep down I knew I had to. That was my only way to end being poor which I absolutely hated to be. Understandable, right?! I often get asked “Why did you come to Canada?”. I remember at first, I was stunned by this question “What kind of question is that?! Don’t you know what is going on outside of North America?!”. But the longer I lived in Canada, the more I understood why Canadians don’t know. 1) Many of them have never been outside of North America or even their province/state. Which is a very bizarre concept for me to understand to this day since they have the best passport and finances in the world. 2) Life in Canada is so comfortable that many think entire world, well except Africa, lives like America. Nope. Not even close.

Would you like to live here? In a 50 shades of green? No? Me neither. And yet it took my mom to save 15 years after the divorce to buy this apartment.

I was always drawn to a luxurious American life. When I was 13, one of my girlfriends immigrated with her family to Los Angeles. She was from a wealthy Jewish family and her parents managed to get a green card based on that fact. When she came to visit in summer, I was always admiring her “rich” clothes, unique hair accessories and stationery. I will never forget American stationery. Yellow notepads with blue lines, orange pencils, self sealing envelopes and sticky notes. The variety and colours were amazing. A kind of amazement I have never seen on my kids’ faces. I bet will never see, they got it all. American stationery was sticking, clicking and smelling. As a kid, I loved to craft, write and read. Now, when I see an ad in our local newspaper for donating shoeboxes full of small things for children in the third world countries I know exactly why they do it and how these kids will feel. They actually eat the toothpaste. I totally get why – it smells and tastes nice!

When I was 16, an American embassy in Kiev opened up a library. You could get a free access. I was just allowed to use the transit and started making weekly trips after school. I would sit there for hours touching glossy book covers, smelling brand new pages, listening to CDs and browsing American colleges on the computer (none of that at home). Colleges I knew I would never get into if I stayed in Ukraine. And I wanted to be educated, independent and not wealthy but just to have enough to live a comfortable life. Returning home from the library was a constant reminder of its own.

I would write down unknown words and spell them 5 times each. I loved studying English and was very good at it. I was winning many competitions and was the best one in any school I went to. This is why when I see a Canadian teacher missing 7 spelling mistakes in my son’s test, I am livid. I knew English was my ticket to success. Whether I immigrate or get an OK job in Ukraine or overseas. I always knew my life as an adult will be good. I believed it. I held onto it. I just knew my day will come. It just couldn’t suck that bad all the time…

I was 19 and like any teenager had lots of friends and a boyfriend drama haha. I was in my second year of university taking accounting. It was fun years except I had no money. And what fun is without money?! I have always been the poorest out of all my friends. Majority of kids had both parents and I had a single mom. If you think a single mom is struggling in Canada, in Ukraine she is barely feeding her kids. That was my mom. This is where my no waste mentality comes from: toothpaste tubes, yogurt containers and lotion bottles emptied to the very last bit.

See, Ukraine is a beautiful country with good people. Ukrainians are good people. But aren’t all people good people?! It is the life they live that shapes them into who they become. Pedofiles are good people too. When they are born. But then they get effed up growing up. Doesn’t mean we have to love them though. So, Ukrainians are good poor people who are fed up with reality. Harsh life makes you obtain strong survival skills. You have to, otherwise you will not survive. Circumstances like these bring out not the best qualities in people. If everyone is stealing, you have to as well, otherwise you die.

It is hard for me to explain how I feel about Ukraine without sounding like I am bashing and disrespecting my motherland. See, it is very hard to be a patriot when your own country is not behind your back when you give it all. I honestly do not have patriotic feelings for Ukraine. I am extremely proud to be Canadian but I can’t say the same about Ukraine. I might never go back. Why? What for? One ticket costs as much as a week in an all-inclusive resort for 2 people. My mom is in Canada. I have nobody else to visit. So, whatever.

Ukrainian government is one of the most corrupted in the world. Nothing is for people. The line between poor and rich is VERY obvious. 5% are “swimming” in money and the other 95% are scrambling for food to eat. There is no middle class. You can’t be what you want to be because they won’t let you. Corruption will not let you. Only rich kids have everything there. Disgusting. Ukraine is the country where retirees receive a pension so small not even enough to buy food. They are forced to beg for money. They sit hungry and cold on the streets begging young corrupted entrepreneurs driving Mercedes’. To buy potatoes to eat.

When I see a homeless person in Canada begging I know it is for drugs. He CAN work and make money here. I do not have much sympathy. I mean it sucks but it’s a choice. In Ukraine, old people have no choice – they can’t work anymore so they have to beg. You can’t imagine what it looks like… Many times I have been called lacking sympathy but I just have seen worse stuff. So, I don’t necessarily think volunteering my time serving Salvation Army dinners is the best way to spend my evenings.

Ukraine is a country where education means nothing. The most talented and educated professors and scientists with a Masters degree are the poorest in the country. You can be Steve Jobs eating mashed potatoes 3 times a day inside a fifty shades of green. “What’s for dinner?” is non-existent. You know what’s for dinner. You open a fridge and see eggs and potatoes.

Ukraine lost its respect for its people. How would you want to live in a country like this?! How can you be proud and patriotic?! I cherish my heritage but absolutely despise what Ukraine has become. So, that is why we left, in a nutshell. I consider myself very lucky. Like I won a lottery lucky. I was sponsored by my half-sister who moved to Canada earlier. To get out of Ukraine is hard. You either have to be sponsored by a Canadian or complete an independent skilled worker immigration which costs a lot of money (for Ukrainians). Many people would like to immigrate from Ukraine but they can’t. My backup plan was marriage. Yep, I totally would do that to immigrate. Maybe I would have married a well-off guy in Ukraine but that was not an easy task to achieve aka love + money. I wasn’t willing to take a chance at life.

Luckily, I didn’t have to. My mom just told me to pack my belongings. Belongings were 2 large bags with minimum clothes and 2 wool rugs. Like I mean big area rugs. Immigrants are funny that way. My mom just couldn’t let go off those rugs. Poor people hang on to every last bit they can. Guess where are those rugs now? Nobody knows.

So, anyways. I had a farewell party with my girlfriends, we locked our tiny apartment, my dad signed a permission letter for me to leave the country (my parents have divorced when I was 6 and I haven’t seen my dad since then) and October 16th, 2000 me and mom have boarded the plane to Amsterdam. That was my first flight ever. In Amsterdam, we split a $10 McDonald’s burger. Mom only had $100 and I had $100 my dad gave me. Even now I’m thinking $10 for a burger is outrageous.

Then we boarded a long flight to Vancouver. Everything was like in a dream and foggy. An immigrant has a life “before” and “after”. And that flight has really divided my life into “before” and “after”. It was the most surreal 24 hours of my life. I could compare it to giving birth – a minute ago you have no idea who is inside you and another minute you see, hear and touch a part of you – your baby. And it’s your new life like this forever. You pray it is forever.

When we landed in Vancouver we had another flight to catch to Edmonton. Because our final destination, where my sister lived then, was Red Deer, AB. The airport in Vancouver looked luxurious and so clean. Right away going through customs and immigration I thought “Wow, what nice people Canadians are. “Please” and “Thank you”. OK, I can do that.” Who knew later I would live in Vancouver and pass the long escalator that brought me into Canada every time I fly to Mexico with my family now. Life is amazing!

We arrived in Edmonton and my sister has announced we have an 1.5 hour drive home. Okaaaaaay. First of all, there was snow on the ground. In October?! Secondly, where are people? Where are houses?! We drove through prairies for 1.5 hours. Never in my life have I seen so much never ending emptiness. It was dark though and I was tired. I decided to worry about everything tomorrow.

At my sister’s home we had borscht and it was my first time I saw so many bananas. I think I had like 4. Since then I can’t stop eating bananas. It is my favourite fruit ever. I come to a hockey rink loaded with bananas. Hockey parents laugh at me and eat their concession crap snacks. And then I’m laughing at them, through tears. I couldn’t believe how cheap they were. We had no bananas in Ukraine – think no import country. I tried them only once before.

We stayed in the basement of this tiny house, which seemed like a mansion to me back then. Which was absolutely weird since in Ukraine we do not have basements. We all lived in apartments. Tiny but above the ground. On our beds were new PJ’s and slippers. Dove soap smelled nice. Everything smelled – that was my first note about any clean Canadian home. Clothes, air, house. Everything smells, always. Now I understand it is all thanks to toxic scents in a softener, dryer sheets and air fresheners but back then I loved it. Tide is still a smell of success to me whenever I pass a house doing laundry on my walks lol.

I started working in 5 days after coming to Canada. My sister’s friend was a dealer in a casino and they needed a cleaner. My English was good. In Ukraine, I took private English lessons and studied at specializing in foreign languages high school. Plus naturally, I have a humanitarian brain. Accounting clearly was not my forte. And to give you an example of a Ukrainian corruption – to get into that school you couldn’t live in its catchment or write an entrance exam. NO. No way. You had to know someone who worked there and then bribe them. Seeing my love for English, my mom found someone who knew a vice principal and gifted her with one of her best rings. You are starting to understand why we immigrated, I hope.

Working in a casino was very hard. It was full of smoke. My job was to clean bathrooms and ashtrays. But I had no choice. My half-sister told me I had to contribute $400/month and I was still too scared to go and look for another job on my own. But I think the hardest part was knowing that this is not what a 19 year old is supposed to do. It was hard knowing all my friends were partying and going to university in Ukraine worrying about nothing. And seeing Canadian kids living at home, going to college and maybe working part-time (or not) made me feel sad. Poverty sucks, let me tell you. Only terminal or chronic illness is worse.

For 2 months, all I did was get on a bus late morning and work till night in a casino. By January, I felt less timid. I could talk to people, make jokes and understand them. Studying English at high school in Europe and speaking it in America are two different things. Day and night.

Yes, of course there was a cultural shock. At 19, I couldn’t understand where and what is the entertainment?! In a small prairie town where are my night clubs to hit with girlfriends I didn’t have. I didn’t know anyone. I am honestly jealous of local kids who grow up in a cozy, filled with everything and financially secure home. They have their own room with tons of free (to them) stuff. They graduate from a high school and backpack the world for a year. Or they drive a car paid by parents to college, come home, study and sleep tight. And mom and dad are hustling for them. That will be my kids but never was me. That is why I am starting to travel coming March because I haven’t seen anything in my life yet. It was all work, work, work. Babies, babies, babies. And I’m 35 with a 10 year old already.

I remember I was really shocked by food and drinks. I couldn’t understand how Caesar salad is a salad. It is just a mix of leaves with croutons. Where are vegetables?! Or a slice of apple pie microwaved with an ice cream on top. Which I think is delicious now. But then I was like why would you put one cold dessert on top of another hot one, and melt something intentionally that is meant to be eaten frozen?! And a Caesar drink?! What is that clamato and what happened to tomato juice?! Not to mention some weird liqueurs like Sour Puss and Sambuca. See, amount of sugar put me in shock even back then. Then it took me years, literally, to understand that “How are you?” means “Hi”. Like you are not supposed to explain how was your day but just say “Good. And you?”. And nobody really cares how you are doing anyways when they ask haha. Naive Olena.

Overall, I spent adjusting and overcoming the cultural shock, not sure whether I can adjust to this completely different mentality, for about 5 years. I really had no place to go back to though. Mom sold the apartment and where do I go and what do I do in Ukraine? Then I started producing babies and my brain quickly got occupied with “Sleep, sleep, sleep. If I could only get sleep ever again!”. Postpartum shock quickly took over my post-immigration emotions haha.

So, back to 2001. In January, my mom took my position as a cleaner. It turned out that for a 19 year old girl with an European accent it wasn’t that hard to get a job as a waitress. In fact, I got hired as a bartender in a bar. I bought myself a pocket bartender’s guide and was mixing American drinks, I had no idea what they taste like, left and right. Living in a small town full of oil workers I was getting pretty good tips. So, I got myself a second job – a bartender in a strip club. Pretty exotic, aha. The atmosphere was obviously weird but I quickly started saving money. And learnt that strippers are good people too.

I still remember how I bought myself Adidas sweat pants. I could afford brand names, wow. I bought a leather skirt and jacket! OMG. Then I bought a puffy white jacket. I bought underwear that wasn’t cheap and falling apart. I could buy shampoo and tampons. I really struggled with personal hygiene money in Ukraine because my mom wouldn’t give me money for that. I get it – food was more important. I was buying makeup. I could buy nylons and throw them out if they get holes instead of applying a nail polish. I bought a notebook where I was carefully writing down all my tips and earnings. I was counting every penny. I had a goal – a car. I really couldn’t stand taking a bus when everyone around me was driving. In May 2001, I paid for my driving lessons and bought my first car. Honda Civic – $5,000. Bam.

I knew I had to continue my education. I mean, I didn’t come to Canada to be a waitress. I applied for a business program at University of Calgary and got accepted. That meant I was moving to Calgary which I was really excited about. Living by myself first time in my life. Yay, silly me. I knew no one in Calgary and honestly had no savings. For school, I planned to pay with the student loan I got. And live by working part-time.  Now I am thinking I was pretty fearless and how did my mom let me do that. I would never let my kids do that but maybe she had no choice and knew nothing about this society. But coming from where I came from I just couldn’t watch the opportunity slip by me. I had to do it while I was young. If you have at least a small chance that you can do it, I was taught to go for it. Trying hard will get you somewhere. Not trying to push yourself will yield very mediocre results. I honestly can’t stand when I hear parents saying a minute of timed math test in grade 2 makes their kids anxious. A reality check is in place ASAP.

First few months of university were honestly hell. Studying in absolutely foreign environment and working nights as a waitress was hard. I had to pay for my car, apartment and food. I definitely overstretched myself. But I got lucky. Well, not really lucky because I made choices. I honestly believe in luck only on a few occasions. Like walking and finding a $20 bill is luck.

So, back in August before the school started, I decided to go to a Russian community’s party and maybe make new friends. Like I said, I knew nobody in Calgary, except one other Ukrainian girl. By the way, that girl was very sweet and helped me with a few things in a city I knew no one in. I am forever grateful.

So, I showed up at the Russian party where nobody was single or my age. I just turned 20. I thought to myself “Great! Just wasted $20.“. But guess what?! At that party, so useless at a first glance, I have met two guys who potentially could be my boyfriends. Trust me, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend at all. I had no time for a boyfriend. AND one of those guys was…Alex. My imperfectly perfect Alex I married 4 years later. He was DJ’ing, told me he just separated from his second wife, was unemployed and living at a friend’s house. Ha, a no brainer, Olena. A perfect guy to marry. Actually, I didn’t date him for the first 2 months because I wasn’t sure “who is this dude?!”. His credentials were questionable including highlighted hair and an earring, which sent my ex-professor from a communist country mom into shock. But mom has been married 3 times and I’m still on my first marriage. So, mom doesn’t know everything. You can tell my mom had not much influence on my deicisons. I had a gut feeling Alex is not an asshole like many I dated previously (I attracted them like a magnet) or like my dad (an asshole of the world title goes to him). Alex is “a grab and run while he is available” kinda guy. And I did.

In October, Alex passed a few of my tests and I was like “Hm, maybe I kinda like him” and we started dating. In December, I sold my Honda Civic and we bought a townhouse for $103,000. A funny price, right?!

So, by the age of 20 I was in a common law relationship, with a mortgage and studying full-time at university. Those were hell of responsibilities for a 20 year old but I had no choice – I was a grown up responsible for myself for many years before then. I was swamped and so grateful made a choice not to get married or have kids until I was done with school. We got engaged when I turned 21 but had no money for anything else. Alex was working and I was studying and working part-time at the post office.

In 2003, we sold our townhouse and bought a house.

In 2005, I graduated from university and we got married.

Alex still had hair. The fact that seems to shock the boys to this day “Daddy, you had hair?!”. Just wait until you are 40, my children.

We also bought our truck we still own to this day. We paid it off later.

In 2006, Kyle was born. OMG, look at my nails (WTF) and I want my long hair back!

In 2008, we sold our house in Calgary, bought a house in Vancouver, packed a Uhaul and moved. Just because we didn’t like Alberta’s climate. Just like that. Me and Alex are pretty the same crazy.
Things have worked out. We made them work. Money, life, family.

In 2011, Adam was born. I was 60 lbs overweight. A beauty!

We went through many rough years both of us studying, without jobs, 2 small kids and barely any money. We made a few financial mistakes along the way. We learnt. We recovered. It worked. Hard work. Work that is hard and still doesn’t kill you. Marriage and family is work too. Life is a ride you choose to ride.

What I want to say is that I am forever grateful for a chance I got in my life to become Canadian. I am a proud Canadian. I am proud to be part of this amazing society. At times, so foreign to me (we discussed it in comments) and me to it aka hurt feelings, for example. Here is the thing – I will never be truly a Canadian because I wasn’t born here. My kids are, I am not. There will always be some things done the way I don’t understand or don’t agree with. I am pretty sure many times Canadians thought I am a weirdo too. And so did I in return, to be perfectly honest haha. And that is fine. It is fine! I am truly in awe of this amazing land, people’s big hearts and humongous opportunities.

We all are equal. We can live free and happy. I do not say this to judge others but having gone through what I went through until 20 years old, I am happy every day. How can you not be happy?! I can’t imagine not being happy in Canada. What to complain about? What else do people need from this society? Nothing is perfect but North America is pretty damn close to it. In a way, those 19 rough years of my life gave me a perspective for the rest of my better life. Not a day I don’t think how good I have it now!

Man, I have everything.

I am healthy.

I have a family I love and that loves me back!!!

I have a beautiful house. I have a freaking 3 story house that is all mine. I can decorate it all I want (growing up without a home this is  a very important aspect of my life). It is 11 years old and not Instagram perfect grey and white but it is mine full of my memories, in a beautiful neighbourhood, in Vancouver – the most expensive place in Canada. I have a beautiful (to me) simple (maybe not that simple) house.

I have savings in my account. Not a million $ but enough for an emergency.

I have a job I LOVE. THANK YOU to all of you making it possible for me!

I have a nice car. I can drive MY car. What?! Still to this day, when I close a garage with a push of a button while sitting on a warm leather seat and pull off my driveway, I can’t believe it is ME. I’m not on a bus in -10C hauling bags of groceries or smelling everyone’s armpits in summer. My kids are fed, dressed and comfortably sitting in the back worrying about NOTHING except the next Lego set they want for Christmas. Yes, my car is 8 years old but it is mine, I own it, I paid for it. It has more than enough buttons and sensors. I don’t want more sensors to fix. I don’t need a new car. Since when a 5 year old car is old? Huh?!

I can buy food I want. Really, I can eat what I want – a burger, strawberries or lobster legs. Or a Kraft dinner.

I can buy any clothes I want. I can shop in a warm store vs. freezing outside flea market.

I can go on vacations wherever I want – my Canadian passport rocks. 140 countries vs. 0 will let me in if I just buy a ticket. Whoa. That makes me feel a freaking important human being.

I can vote and my voice will be heard without corrupted results.

I have hot water to shower and no one is banging on my door to get out. I can sit in a hot tub for hours if I want to.

I don’t have to wash dishes and laundry by hand. I don’t have to carry groceries home – I drive loads of them.

I wipe my butt with a 2 ply flower print toilet paper instead of cut up newspaper which erases any effort of showering the day before.

I can laugh without thinking what will happen tomorrow. I can walk safely outside. I am welcomed by people. I am surrounded by nice people (majority bahaha). Man, even Canadian homeless people are the most polite people in entire world – “No money for me?! OK. No problem. Have a nice day, lady!”. Me and Alex always chuckle about that one. My kids are safe and have a future. My country is not at war. I live in a beautiful country full of wildlife.

Heck, there are a million reasons to be proud to be Canadian! Forever grateful to have been accepted by this amazing country!

What the f… is wrong with people who complain about life in North America and are unhappy? So easy to come up with excuses.

I bet many people wonder what it’s like to be an immigrant. How it feels. Unless you go through it yourself it is hard to imagine. It’s like I was never a drug or an alcohol addict (though it might seem I am from What I Ate Weekend posts), so it’s hard for me to imagine how that feels. Being an immigrant you definitely don’t feel 100% home. Never will. I was reading a Syrian immigrant journalist’s article about Syrian refugees. What a hot topic these days. It was quite sensitive to details that your sky is not your sky, and food is not your food, and you have no childhood home to visit when you are a refugee. Maybe even no family. Yes, all true. We have no family here or any of the above mentioned. But you know what, I assure you that that is such a small price to pay for getting what you get as a Canadian. I definitely can live with my beautiful new Canadian sky, my accent and grocery stores full of food I can buy. I think I can definitely live with that. What really sucks more than not being able to eat an authentic pita bread is living in a war zone or not being able to afford underwear.

So, yeah, being a refugee/immigrant in Canada is not that bad at all. From sharing a 100 sq. ft. room with 3 people to owning a 3,000 sq. ft. home. From a drawer of clothes to a walk in closet. From a tiny drawer in a computer desk with personal belongings to a house full of stuff. I think an immigrant can handle that.

What I want to say at the end (if you made it this far). In North America, life is all about choices. I went through a few friendships with women who thought of me being judgemental and harsh. I never knew if the next thing I say will be considered hurting or not. I attribute those issues to cultural differences and partially “clicky” girls. I still come in contact with sensitivity issues on a daily basis especially now having kids. I came to a peaceful understanding that majority of Canadian women (aka moms) find me different  because they don’t know how to read me. So, I was told by one of them (a brave one).

I am who I am and I mean no harm to anyone. I do believe choices we make shape our lives. Just because I, myself, had to make a few tough choices majority of these girls never had to. Lucky them. They just don’t know it. If I don’t smile 24/7 it doesn’t mean I am hard to read. In fact, I am an open book without any mystery – nothing is hiding behind the smiles. I won’t get offended at what you have said to me, keep smiling and “cut off the oxygen” – I will let you know what I didn’t like so you don’t keep guessing for months to come. I would say what is OK to say or not has been the hardest part of adjusting in Canada for both, me and Alex. Because of that we get excluded many times because we are not like everyone else. We kinda are OK with that now haha. We learnt how to find people of our own kind who can handle us without suffering an anxiety attack.

I grew up in a different society. I will speak up if I think I should speak up. I will do it appropriately. I have feelings, a lot. I just don’t sweat the small stuff. Hurt feelings concept is a by-product of a comfortable worry-free life. People really have nothing to worry about here. News are filled with dead aquarium belugas and baby racoons born. WTF are belugas doing swimming in a can for 20 years anyways?! They freaking died within 2 weeks of each other because of depression. Mystery solved. I hope they never catch more. NO, I do not feel sad for the aquarium’s employees. This type of news are funny although some will mourn belugas for days and consider me insensitive. And it is fine. It is funny in a way. Good funny. Cozy on my couch funny in the world where I think I can live with the hurt feelings concept. In a 1st world full of doggy daycares, pet strollers and doggie cookie bakeries. In the only place in the world where pets have diabetes and get a funeral service. Outside of North America a dog eats real food, lives until 30 and dies from being run over by a car or eaten by other dogs. But I love my 1st world with neutral gender bathrooms. I will take it over the 50 shades of green world any day. Comfortable, safe and easy world!

I hope I gave you a glimpse into an immigrant’s life a bit. I hope I helped you understand maybe your co-worker’s or a neighbour’s brain a bit better. When I see a Chinese individual (hello, I live in Vancouver) pushing his/her way through the crowd without a smile, I keep reminding myself how he/she is used to fight for his/her spot under the sun among 1.4 billion. Now, was this a racist statement? Who knows. I guess it is an individual choice how to perceive information because everyone can become a victim within a matter of seconds. It is so damn easy to find excuses… I get it, we all are different and I am not allowed to judge anyone’s sensitivity threshold. Then others shouldn’t judge my “insensitivity” and love me the way I am lol. Which is not the reality. What’s OK or not is a pretty tricky task to figure out even for locals today, I believe.

Merry Christmas and enjoy your life every day! Make it, build it, work on it. North America is truly a magnificent place on Earth! Like only 5% of entire world’s population get to live this life. Don’t waste your lottery ticket.

xoxo

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16 Comments

  1. Dana

    GREAT post! You did such a great job of expressing your deep gratitude and explaining your core self. I thoroughly enjoyed it. As an American, it makes me realize how frivolous some of our “problems” are. Happy holidays and thanks for the season-appropriate reality check!

    Reply
    • Olena

      🙂 Now, “can” this feeling for the holidays so they become as special as never before.:) We really have no problems. I’m glad to be in this 1st world problems pool now. My worries this week include loud kids at home, tiredness from winter, sickness from cleaning up kitchen and missing summer. I think I really can handle my “problems” LOL. Yes, I can do that! Merry Christmas, Dana!

      Reply
  2. Miki

    Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed reading this post. It’s interesting to hear different perspectives. Wishing you and your family the happiest of holidays.

    Reply
  3. Bonnie

    Thank you so much for sharing your “story” Olena. I love your blog & enjoy hearing about your personal life as a young Mom balancing all the different roles of life. Your sense of humour never fails to give me a chuckle as I remember life wa young family. Enjoy those moments & the wine, those little boys grow up way too fast. Merry Christmas to you & your family.

    Reply
    • Olena

      One day I’m jealous of 50 year olds and another day I want to stop the clock. It is a new day every day lol. Life in general goes by too fast. Merry Christmas, Bonnie!!!

      Reply
  4. Sarah

    Wow – your last line: “Don’t waste your lottery ticket” – I think that may have just become my new life mantra!
    Thank you for sharing your story and your perspective. Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    • Olena

      Whenever you forget your new mantra, come back and read the post again haha. It will be here forever. I like to read it myself as a reminder when it’s 12PM and we are on a timeout #3. 😛 Merry Christmas to you and your family, Sarah!

      Reply
  5. Sarah

    Wow, what an amazing story of courage and resilience. I have been following your instagram but it’s nice now to know the person behind the (delicious) recipes. You’re absolutely right, there is so much to be thankful for. I am so proud to be Canadian! I have so much respect for immigrants because they had to start from nothing. My parents were also immigrants to Canada like you and went through many struggles in their 20s. I have vague memories as a young child of the poverty we experienced, but their hard work has brought us so far and now I’m studying to be a doctor. I always told them I’d buy them a nice car once I “made it” haha! Thank you for sharing your story, and for reminding us all to keep things in perspective.
    Merry Christmas, may your 2017 be blessed.

    Reply
    • Olena

      Good for you, Sarah! Glad you got to know me better. Glad you are eating healthy.:) It is all possible here in Canada if you work hard, don’t look back and don’t compare yourself to others! So easy to get caught up in a race of keeping up with the Joneses. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Thank you for your warm wishes!

      Reply
  6. nadya kotik

    wow, that was a long post. I enjoyed reading it. I came to USA in 1998 but I was only 13 so I didn’t experience as much as a teen and young adult. I also went to a school with intensive foreign language studies and I am so glad I knew English when I got here. My mom paid a bribe and then found out that our address belongs to that school district. I love living in North America and feel that Ukraine hasn’t given me much. I love the country and people but can’t be patriotic. I remember writing about how safe and comfortable life is here when I was 16. I always tell people what it was like so they can appreciate what they have. We were poor but I was happy. I am glad I didn’t have to be a teen there. You went through real hard time. I am glad u r here and r so blessed with things u need and a family.

    Reply
    • Olena

      I often thought if I came here earlier in time to go to high school, my adjustment would have been easier. But it is what it is. I am at the point in life where I can look back at my past without pain and be grateful for the experience who made me who I am today. Heated leather seats will make me happy forever.:) I still feel like I have won a lottery ticket and I have nothing to complain about! I’m a lucky girl!!! Happy New Year!

      Reply
  7. Stephanie

    Your posts about growing up in the Ukraine and this one should be required reading for everyone. So many people do not appreciate what they have and your words are a reminder for how good people living in North America have it. Thank you for sharing so much of your life.

    Reply
    • Olena

      I know what you mean. These posts along with how to eat healthy and what happens if you don’t, would be great – dream life.:)

      Reply
  8. Kathy Holbrook

    I really enjoyed your story. It’s an amazing journey. Thank you for sharing.
    We really are blessed to live in North America. Those who are from here don’t realize how lucky they are it is good to be reminded. Thank you.

    Reply

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