Proud and Privileged

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, I visited the pier 21 immigration museum. I’ve never visited a museum that pertained to me as much as this one did. The pier, in which hundreds of thousands of immigrants started their lives in Canada, got me thinking about my own life.

I came to Canada when I was 7. Myself, my mum, dad and brother made the trip from Ukraine, leaving behind our friends, family, and home. I guess I don’t talk about it very much. Maybe because people ask ignorant questions, and maybe because I consider myself so much Canadian that the early years of my life, in which I was exposed to so little media or culture, don’t really seem to count.

The most ignorant question people ask me about my immigration is, “Why did you leave Ukraine?” Although “ignorant” has a negative connotation, I certainly don’t mean it to in this situation. I sincerely think that it’s great that people don’t know how dumb that question is. In part, I don’t even know why we left Ukraine. I can only infer.

I think we left Ukraine because I was surprised that playgrounds were free when I came to Canada.

I think we left because when my Grandma came to visit, she was shocked that we had just as much to eat every night, as on the night we welcomed her.

I think we left because my parents couldn’t believe that my volleyball coach volunteered his time to give back to his community.

I think we left because until middle school, I wholeheartedly believed that homosexuality was wrong, and that being white elevated me above other people.

But of course, I can only infer. It’s a testament to my parents that I didn’t know anything was wrong in Ukraine until after we found a better life in Canada. And I’m grateful that my friends ask, and my kids will ask, and even I ask why we ever left, since it means that we’re ignorant to any way of life other than the Canadian way.

I’m so grateful for the life that I’ve found here in Canada. Especially now that I’ve traveled to places outside of Ontario, I appreciate the beautiful land, diverse people, and endless opportunities. Sitting here, in Halifax, having just eaten a delicious beavertail and listening to the fluttering maple leaf flag on the harbourfront, I feel very proud and privileged to be Canadian.

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