Small talk with me often starts like this: “Am I hearing a trace of an accent?”
“A trace of an accent? Why, that’s a big fat flattery, but thank you. The accent is Russian,” – I respond. And then get ready for the big loaded question, which 9 times of 10 follows: “And what brought you to Canada?”
I never know what to say. How much do they wanna hear? How honest should I be? Are they waiting to hear that Canada is the best country in the world and, naturally, everyone wants to come here? Or that Russia is such a horrible place that, naturally, everyone wants to escape, no matter where? Or they don’t know what else to ask?
So I decided to put together a mini-speech that I can give anyone who asks. An entertaining story, omitting some details, embellishing others… but giving them the gist of it.
So. What brought me to Canada?
I say this and then pause, to see if they want to hear more – but the pause cannot be long enough to let their thoughts travel down the “Russian Brides Online” path. Not that there is anything wrong with Russian brides online. It’s just that it’s not what it was at all. Russian brides online are dreaming of meeting a foreigner and moving abroad. Me, on the other hand? I never intended to move anywhere at all.
So. A guy.
Yes, he was dreaming of moving out of Russia and he convinced me that it was a grand idea. We arrived in Montreal, him as a student, me as a tourist. It was February.
Do you want a piece of advice? Don’t go to Montreal in February. It’s insanely cold. You look out your window and the sky is cloudless blue, and the sun is shining, and it looks like it might be +30C there. But then you go out, inhale, and feel your lungs cover with ice. And then your ears fall off and break against the pavement into a million pieces like a fine china cup. I used to cry almost every time I had to go anywhere. Literally, I went grocery shopping with tears running down my cheeks.
As a student and a tourist, all we could afford was a small basement bachelor apartment, where windows would get covered with ice – on the inside, and where spiders would be hanging from the ceiling, and where I could tell whether the neighbour taking a leak was standing or sitting on the toilet, judging by the sound. Yes.
I hated it. We were poor, cold, friendless…
And then, of course, spring arrived and all of a sudden there were tulips and irises blooming everywhere, and Montreal won my heart with a whirlwind of festivals – fireworks, jazz, beer, blues, green sculptures, Formula 1, just for laughs… you name it! And then I got a nice job. And found new, dear friends. I fell in love with Montreal. I fell in love with Canada.
We applied for immigration, got evaluated based on a set of criteria such as education, work experience, languages (English and French), age – and became Canadians. And then the guy and I split our ways. And even though moving to Canada had been his decision, I happily stayed here.
Did that answer your question,?
A keen listener would notice that “Why Canada?” remains unanswered. I didn’t choose to come here. It was a chance meeting. But it changed my life. And I am loving it.