by Lena Usovich
The war in the Ukraine has been going on for 20 months. Can you imagine 20 months of war? Twenty months of loss, pain, tears, fears, destruction, fleeing and death? When I moved to Canada on April 7, 2022, I could not have imagined that I would have to leave my home, my family and friends, and escape the country I love.
Since my arrival here, I have changed a lot. Honestly, I am now a completely different person than I was before. There is a famous saying: “Time heals”, however, for those who have had their lives changed so dramatically, it’s not true. Time can heal broken bones, but not a broken heart. My heart was broken on February 24th, 2022 when Russia began its full-scale invasion of my country…an independent, sovereign state. Since then, Russian forces have killed, raped, tortured, deported, or forcibly transferred civilians to Russia or occupied areas. At least 14 million people have fled their homes. Over 120,000 civilians have been killed and 17,748 have been wounded. And these numbers will increase as long as the war continues. Millions experience daily suffering from disruptions in electricity and water supply due to Russia’s widespread targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
I haven’t talked to anyone about how I really feel, how 20 months of war has affected my life and what it’s like to be living in Canada. The first three months in Canada were incredibly difficult for me. I couldn’t sleep well. I was constantly reading the news and contacting relatives and friends, making sure they were ok. I was forced to start my life from zero. This was not what I had planned or wanted! When you think about moving to a new country, you have an idea of what steps you need to take to implement it. But this is not what happened. We had to make quick decisions about our future and escape a perilous situation.
Moving to a new country has its challenges. The biggest difficulty for me was meeting new people. I wasn’t ready to talk to anyone much less build new friendships. I’m not comfortable talking about my personal life and opening up to people. It took me 3-4 months to start feeling at ease and communicating more freely with people.
Cultural differences were another challenge for me. It took a few months to adapt to the local language, cultural habits and my new life in Canada. One of the main obstacles for me and for most newly landed immigrants is finding meaningful jobs that are in line with our qualifications or previous work experience. In the Ukraine, I worked as a journalist, my dream job! However, finding work like that here as a new immigrant is difficult given language barriers. Fortunately, I was able to find work in a local restaurant, a completely new field for me! Honestly, I’ve learned a lot of cooking skills in this job, and rarely cut my fingers anymore! Every experience pushes me to grow. So even if this job isn’t in my field of expertise, I’ve embraced the opportunity to learn new things and work with great people.
Eighteen months have passed, and I feel that now I have reached a stage of adaptation to this new life in Canada. I can say with confidence that I feel comfortable with living here and I feel lucky to have found a place to call home. Many displaced Ukrainians have not been so lucky. Our Canadian friends, Stephanie and Sheldon Gilmer, lovingly invited us into their home for our first year. Now some other Ukrainian friends and I rent their home. From day one, this couple, along with many others in the community, have helped us navigate our new lives in Canada. It is unbelievable how many are willing to open their hearts and assist us every day. Kemptville is an incredible small town with wonderful kind people. I’m very grateful to everyone who has supported me and who continue to support my home country.