Growing up in Ukraine, a now 19-year-old Alina loved watching animated films and doing art. Both quickly became expressive and stress-relieving activities for Alina and ones she could get lost in for hours.
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Alina’s mom suggested that she move to Canada for her safety and to access better life opportunities. Without much time to process, she moved from Kyiv to Poland and then Italy awaiting her visa to come to Canada. She would live with relatives who had already been in Peterborough. That time was uncertain as she awaited the move, unsure of how long it would take or what to expect once she got here.
Arriving on April 6, 2022, she immediately found Canada to be a beautiful country with kind and open people. She felt welcomed and supported by the community, but it took some time to feel settled. The preceding months had been a whirlwind of emotions and rapid change with little time to stop and process. Feelings of loneliness crept in as she was a continent and ocean away from her parents, who stayed behind in Ukraine and her friends, who were now spread across Europe.
She had to adapt to new surroundings and a new way of life in Canada. While she learned English in school in Ukraine, she worried whether her language skills were good enough. She connected with the New Canadians Centre, and we were able to complete a language assessment and refer her to the LINC program at Fleming College. These lessons and the practice at home with her relatives helped her grow her confidence in the language.
Our staff also helped provide Alina with resources and information on the next steps, including schooling. She attended community gatherings organised by the Newcomers Ministry at the Bridge Youth Centre, where she made friends with other Ukrainians and met community members at a gathering organised by the New Canadians Centre. She has even begun embracing Canadian activities like camping for the first time, and though she worries about the winter, she looks forwards to skating on the canal.
Through the Safe Haven Group, Alina was introduced to Dan Brandsma of the Silver Bean Café. Her first job in Canada and only second ever, she remembers wondering how she would fit in and what the workplace in Canada would be like. The job allows her to practice her English, gain Canadian experience, and meet people in the community. Dan notes that Alina “has been a wonderful and valued part of our team this season. It takes courage to jump into a new job in a new country in a language you’re learning on the go. I can see her confidence grow by the day as she interacts with team members and customers and can only hope Alina will want to return next season to add to her café skills.”
Alina’s initial jitters quickly dissipated as the diverse and multicultural team at the cafe welcomed her in. The café has a staff of 25 who are fluent in 10 languages. The Silver Bean has long been a home for newcomers, often giving many new Canadians like Alina their first start. Dan reflects that “diversity on our team sets the tone. It sets the tone for customers to know that they are all welcome. It sets the tone that our community is wonderfully growing in diversity. It sets the tone that there is strength and beauty in diversity. Something we experience daily on Team Bean.”
As the summer draws to a close, Alina looks forward to finishing the season at the café and attending school to complete her Ontario high school credits. Once that is done, her dream is to attend College to study animation and work on projects like her favourite childhood film “Spirit”, a 2002 animated film from DreamWorks. There are no animation schools in Ukraine where she can pursue her passion, so Canada presents an opportunity for Alina to chase her dream. One that she is ready to embrace.
Here are some of Alina’s artwork: