Kyiv, Ukraine – Toronto, ON
November 2019. It has been five years since I first crossed the ocean, with intense pain and fever from a kidney infection protracted in the war zone in the Donbas region, where I was volunteering with Mark. My closest friend had stolen my last $100 that I had planned to give to my children. And so, sick, without a penny to my name but with my love, I landed in Toronto to organize Ukrainian carol workshops. My intent was to make some money for much-needed supplies for the Ukrainian army.
These years were not easy. I was not ready for the colossal changes that I was about to experience. I actually never planned to leave Ukraine.
In the first two years, I kept quiet, not wanting to appear unintelligent because of my lack of knowledge of the English language. I was afraid to go to the store; I was afraid to use the subway.
Three years of culture shock, incredible stress, apprehending my PTSD – this was my adjustment to a new world, which I did not understand.
We lived in a small apartment with low ceilings in a basement for the first six months. I did not have money of “ my own” and so could not be independent, as I used to be in Ukraine. The internet was sporadic, and I relied on my old phone and wi-fi.
For eighteen long months, my three children were on the other side of the planet under their grandma’s care. I never shared publicly how difficult it was for me. On three occasions, I almost bought a one-way ticket back to Ukraine. Then I convinced myself to hang in here for a little longer because I knew I could do so much more in Canada. Make more money. Help my sick father. Support my mother who had to quit her job to take care of her husband. Chase opportunities that are non-existent in Kyiv.
My trips to Ukraine gave me strength. The smell of my homeland gave me courage. Those who did not immigrate cannot understand how it feels to be “home”. I was saved by volunteering, by my trips to Donbas.
No one has the right to say that immigrants are traitors or those who put a better life above their values. That “better” life has a high price. Probably only our children will actually enjoy that life to the full.
Meanwhile, we immigrants live a life of survival and support for our country of origin. Our existence is 100% devoted to Ukraine. It cannot be any other way around. This requires hard work without holidays or breaks. We put all our savings aside to be able to fly back home to spend time with our close people.
Only my fourth and last child is being raised in the Ukrainian culture without a single Russian book or cartoon. This was my conscious decision. Just the same as it was my choice to become a mother to my little girl Maya at the age of 40.
People used to call me Masha for 38 years but for the last 5 years, I am Marichka, and it feels good! Years of daily tears, misunderstandings, irritability, disillusionment gradually turned into acceptance, understanding and adjustment.
I do not have enough words of gratitude for my husband for his empathy and patience. For the wisdom and continuous support from our parents. I am immensely grateful for the support of our fans.
You know what? I have a beautiful life, which I enjoy and value. I travel the world and work hard with my love. We perform to audiences of thousands. The most influential press writes about our success. My dreams and the dreams of my children are coming true.
You know what? It is possible to step outside the box and to find the strength within ourselves to overcome difficulties. Do you know what was the internal power that did not allow me to give in and break despite my difficulties? They were the thousand-year-old songs of my motherland, the songs I will sing as long as I live, as long as I breathe. I will sing these songs to the world. Because I have my strength, I have my voice. Let it soar.