Violetta moved to Canada from Ukraine almost four years ago to study marketing at Seneca College, but ended up following her creative call and doing an animation program. She says she’s never regretted her choice, and looking at her happy face, I can totally believe it.
I met with Violetta over a cup of coffee to discuss her life as a #UkrainianInToronto.
Q: What perception of Canada did you have before actually moving in here?
Violetta: Before Canada I went to the USA and that kind of gave me a general idea of what to expect from Canada. Do you want me to tell you what I had thought even before my first journey to North America?
Q: Let’s do it both ways. First, before your first ever visit to North America. Then just before Canada, after the U.S.
Violetta: Before going to the U.S., I had a very vague idea of what it was all about. It seemed to be an exotic island for me. When I landed in Seattle and was driving through the city, the first thing that struck me was how many people were sitting on grass in parks. It was unusual for me after Ukraine. And then we saw a big red fire truck and took like a million photos of it. 😄 It was fun.
When I was coming to Canada, I expected to see a lot in common with the U.S. I have been to three cities in the States. And I wasn’t too excited or worried about Toronto.
Q: So, you’re telling me you didn’t feel any difference between Canada and the U.S. when you moved in here?
Violetta: Not really, no. But we are talking about first impressions. Seattle and Toronto looked quite similar for me. Then I realized there were some differences, of course. For instance, in like half a year I understood that Canadians are more polite and open people.
Q: Oh, okay, interesting. So what were your first impressions in general?
Violetta: Hmm, I have to think about it. I remember that the first place in downtown that we saw was Queen’s Park, and everybody there was doing some kind of sports. I thought, “wow, that’s awesome”. It was June, but it was not hot. I was in a T-shirt and jeans, thinking “is this gonna be like this all the time in summer?”
Q: And what about the city itself?
Violetta: I expected more skyscrapers! Nothing surprised me much in the city after New York. Cause everything was so big there, we sometimes found it hard to see the sun because of all the skyscrapers.
Q: Okay, so did that disappoint you?
Violetta: No, not at all. I like it the way it is. I actually think this is a perfect city to live in. But I think it takes time to get used to it. You can fall in love with Toronto, but only like in 6 months or something.
Q: I think I fell in love with Toronto right away. But you’re right, it’s different for everyone. Was there anything you didn’t expect of the city?
Violetta: I was amazed by the facilities for disabled people! The very first day of our stay in Toronto I saw a bus driver putting down a special “bridge” for a man in a wheelchair for him to enter the bus. It’s cool. And I also thought there were few homeless people in Toronto. At least definitely not as many as in New York or Seattle, for example.
Q: What about the subway?
Violetta: Gosh, it’s so small. Even my hometown in Ukraine (Kharkiv) has a bigger subway system. We don’t have as many stops, but the routes are more “complicated”, if you know what I mean.
Q: First impressions are gone. Four years have passed. Any changes in your perception of the city and country in general?
Violetta: Yes. At first I thought that all Canadians wanted to be friends with me, that’s how nice they seemed. But after some time, I realized nobody really wants to be friends with you that much. They are nice and polite, but don’t be too naïve – it’s not always sincere. Although, it’s better in here than in the USA, I should say.
Q: Violetta, why Canada in the first place?
Violetta: I was choosing between Australia, Bulgaria (I have Bulgarian roots), the USA and Canada. I started reading about immigration to each country and how it works there. To become a citizen of Australia, you apparently can only marry an Australian. The USA was too expensive. Canada was a “cheaper” version of the States. Besides, my cousin lives in Toronto. He is a prof at University of Toronto. I was excited about that, though I’ve never met him personally before I actually moved to Canada.
Q: New York or Toronto? Your verdict.
Violetta: Toronto. For sure. It’s very diversified and yet tolerant. New York is a bit different. I like Toronto because it resembles America, but not too much, do you know that I mean?
Q: Absolutely. Toronto is a nice mix of American and European, especially English, culture. Which is obvious historically and politically.
Violetta: Yes! It has the best features of both cultures, I think. And it’s great.
Q: Last question. What are your plans for the near future?
Violetta: I want to get a job as a production assistant or coordinator. I guess in animation field. Or maybe TV series.
Q: I’ll mention that, who knows, maybe someone important will be reading this interview 😎. Thank you so much! And good luck with everything.
And then we had a long long walk around the city, but that’s a whole different story 😉
P.S. Follow Violetta’s Instagram account @violettags for more info and stories! (but mind that it’s in Russian!).
See ya, my curious friends 👋🏽