The Canadian Dream and my Russian friend

As Canadians we have a pretty high opinion about our country…especially when it comes to accepting immigrants. So it’s kind of a shock to me, that a friend is packing it in and returning to her home country, Russia, after almost two years of struggle. She says that yes, Russia is more corrupt and less free than Canada. But, in Russia she can work in her chosen career. She’s had it with scrubbing toilets and barely scraping by. It’s a sad story and unfortunately, her story is not unique.

As a child of immigrants, myself, I know how hard my parents worked to give me the life that they couldn’t have. For a while, my dad was a fix-it guy and my mom worked in a potato chip factory. But they'd had no chance to get a higher education.  It’s different for children. Kids absorb the language and lifestyle in schools. Later, with job training, they automatically get the ‘correct’ paper work, to enter a career of their choice. 

For the older, highly-skilled immigrant however, Canada is often not paradise. It’s often menial labour, financial struggle, and later, sadly, the feeling of being ostracized by their own culturally-adjusted children.

It takes courage to come to a new country as an adult. Immigrants like my friend arrive in our country with a sense of optimism and adventure. Gradually, that optimism can erode into discouragement. You’re away from friends and family. And here you are, unable to move ahead, cleaning houses just to pay the bills. This is what many immigrants experience.

I asked my friend what life will be like for her back in Russia. The city where she’ll live, four hours east of Moscow, is a lot like Winnipeg, she told me…with long, cold winters. Dogs run free, owners do not pick up after them, and living in a detached house is rare. Plus, there’s more crime, violence and drinking. But her new home city offers excellent public transportation, condos and apartments are affordable and so are the restaurants. Culture is everywhere… many museums, theatres and concert halls. Post-secondary education is free.

Since making the decision to move back, my friend has had several job offers and looks forward to the life she dreamed she could have here in Canada, back where she started…in Russia.

It’s still hard for me, born in Canada, to imagine that life could be better in Russia…a place that destroyed my own family during the Stalin years. But I’ve appreciated getting to know a modern-day Russian and to have this glimpse into a country and a people that has long fascinated me.

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