“Do What Others Don’t, and You Will Succeed”

How Renata, a teenager, fled from Ukraine and adapted to a new life in Canada. She shares differences, loneliness & never-ending optimism.

By Liubov Lavreniuk

Updated 05:24 pm EST, December 17, 2023

Published 01:07 pm EST, December 13, 2023

Photo Courtesy: Renata

In 2022, our lives back in Ukraine were totally split between the “before” and “after, ” and I have something to tell. To me, Canada is one of the most developed countries in the world and is a super fancy place to be. It has ample, wide-open land, nature coming out of its ears, and more opportunities than you can shake a stick at. But of course, when you come to a new country searching for a better life, you face many difficulties. Let me tell you about my experiences moving from Ukraine to Canada.

Renata and her new friends from Canada
Renata and her new friends from Canada

Embracing New Realities

A different mentality, loneliness, finding a new self, and, most importantly – adaptation. But when you are ready to leave your old life behind and dive into a new one, you run into different ways of thinking, feeling like you are on your own little island. Trying to find a whole new you, and, most importantly, trying to fit in. These are all common things for every immigrant who has already adjusted himself morally before moving to a new country. However, nobody really gave me even a hint on what to expect.

Ukrainians had completely different plans. We lived our lives and dreamed of our incredible future in our homeland, but life made its adjustments. Many Ukrainians left Ukraine and started their journey to new countries for which they were not ready, and I am no exception. I made the hard decision to move from Ukraine to Canada.

A Cross-Cultural Adventure

In a few days, I will be eighteen. At the age of sixteen, I moved to Canada while my whole family stayed in Ukraine. I am currently living with a host family. Life took me on a wild ride when I packed my bags and moved to Canada. And this experience was a significant eye-opener. I learned about Canada-style education and the Canadian mindset.

When it comes to their way of life, they do not overload themselves with work. They are all about living for the moment, staying fit, keeping an eye on what they eat, and enjoying it. As for weekends, they are all about jogging, setting up a camp, hiking in the woods with their family, and more. In Canada, health care provides the treatment you need, but long-term follow-up care can be a long process. Here, it is challenging to make an appointment with a doctor quickly. I’ve noticed that Canadians have got their financial smarts dialed in. Many Canadians are financially literate, saving up their dough like pros.

Challenges & Optimism

It’s been a year since I touched down in Canada from Ukraine. I had a lot of questions and concerns back then. Is everyone really smiling? And that smile, is it fake, as everyone says? Will I be able to fit in and call this country my home? Will I feel lonely? Many worries arose in my head. This year turned out to be the year I had to make many decisions for myself that I can say were fateful.

But before I even set foot in Canada, I felt a kind of determination and optimism inside me. I realized I would have two options: either grab my life by the horns here with all its trials, troubles, and experiences ahead of me or pick up where I left off. A few months rolled by, and I was still standing my ground. And that’s when real challenges came knocking. I live in a French province and had to learn a new language from scratch to study in Canada. It was and still is not an easy stage, but my desire to study in Canada was much stronger than all the difficulties I faced. At the time, I had a choice to enter elementary school in the fall or continue my studies to learn French to master it.

A Ukrainian Chasing Dreams

I had to be patient and really chase down my dreams. I have already achieved high results in learning French, and I continue to gain because my entrance exams are coming up very soon. Moving to a new country taught me to make choices independently and decisively take responsibility for my life. It taught me, even through tears, to keep moving forward and chase my dreams.

Renata and friends in Canada
Renata and friends in Canada

I am pretty proud that I make my own choices, am the boss of my life, and do not just blindly follow others’ advice. Only we are responsible for our lives, and we choose whether to give up or move on. Sure, I have days when I get exhausted, have my eyes misty, thinking I am on the wrong track, but if life leads me this way, there is gotta be a reason for it. I even did a 180 on my career choice, which was also not easy. I often feel sad because I don’t know if this is precisely the path I need and want, but I still continue to fight for my future.

Unforeseen Growth

Of course, I did not expect that all these events would happen in my life, and sometimes, I just wish my family wasn’t so far away. But on the other hand, I am infinitely grateful for the chance to grow up faster than my peers. I have faced moments when others did not believe what I believed and continue to believe. For example, when I was told that I should be prepared for the worst turn of circumstances. However, my belief in myself keeps pushing me forward on this wild journey. If it ain’t a tough road, it ain’t worth it. 

I can’t help but wonder why so many of us Ukrainians are on this rough path. While you look at how your peers from other countries cruise along without the same worries we have. And other peers of mine who left their country and family due to war at an early age for their future and safety’s sake. I believe that everything that is not done is for the best, and we will achieve an incredible future no matter the cost.

From Ukraine to Canada: My Final Thoughts

I made many friends in Canada, both Canadians and others who immigrated here with their families. We always talk a lot and share our experiences. My friends, boyfriend, and Canadian family help me a lot, so I don’t feel lonely here. We go out for dinner, walks, and talk to distract from everyday life. I am happy that the people I met as soon as I arrived here and throughout this journey are with me and support me.

A quote I’ve seen that keeps me from giving up is: “Do what others don’t, and you will succeed.” We are the ones who decide which path to choose and how we feel about it.

From the Series

By Liubov Lavreniuk
By Liubov Lavreniuk

Discover More