You may recall the Kostenko family. They arrived from the Ukraine and have a definite love and gratitude for Canada and Sudbury. Here they are at their home in the Donovan. From the left are mother, Olha, daughters Olena (Helen), Sofiia, and father Yevhenii. Not to be forgotten, their dog Maximus joins in for a treat. Hugh Kruzel photo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

What makes Canada (and by extension Sudbury) a desired destination? Who are these new arrivals to our country and community? Let’s visit with some of them and ask what were — and are — the push and pull factors that brought them here. 

For those of us who have been born here, or only known Canada as home, perhaps we take too much for granted. No war, but safety; governments that are predictable and systems that are trustworthy; health care; access to education; choices around identity; enshrined rights. 

I could go on, but what else makes us who we are and what can we learn from those who see it all with fresh eyes?

For one, Canada is a big country. Coming from a large Indian city, for example, the space in neighbourhoods and between homes may seem incredible. 

Of course, there is also the thing we forget in the dog days of summer: that other season that can chill you to the bone. Winter is daunting for those who come from a warmer climate. If you arrive in November, winter can seem endless, say those stepping off a plane in sandals and a sweater. 

Below, The Star profiles three families who are new to Sudbury.

The entrepreneur

Coming from Chennai, India (on the Bay of Bengal), Charulatha Vijayakumar arrived in December 2020, and now she has had three and a half years to experience Sudbury. 

“I am in the process of getting my permanent residency,” Vijayakumar said. “I am 28. I love the diversity and the western exposure. I love exploring cultures. Chennai is a huge city. It is super crowded. Quite the contrast to Sudbury.” 

Indeed, her home municipality hosts 6.8 million people. 

She still feels the connection to her native country and family. “My mom usually calls twice a day. I have an aunt in Toronto and perhaps that is why I came to Canada. She has been trying to convince me to move there, but big cities are expensive.”

Does she find Sudbury big enough for her? “I’m not used to having such a mix of nature with the urban environment. It is such a benefit, but it is new to me. I love the lakes. 

“Winter? I prefer to look at it from the warm side of the window. Watching snow fall from inside is much better, but I have learned there is not really bad weather, just bad clothing choices.”

What will Vijayakumar do on Canada Day 2024? “It is a good question. With COVID I did not get around. I guess I will go to Ramsey Lake and walk. We rented a cottage in Temagami one summer. Big trees and the night sky was so huge and mind-blowing. You cannot see the Milky Way from a large city.”

Vijayakumar has taken her learning from graduation at Cambrian College and developed a business idea. “I’ve been working on advancing an app for amateur singers, lyricists and musicians.” 

Her product, CollSong, allows users to upload and collaborate with each other to create songs. She was recently at the Collision technology and AI conference in Toronto.

“I’ve developed such good and deep friendships here. That is why I am still in Sudbury. It is a community that supports me. Mentorship and the backing for business idea incubation are strong.”

The family 

The warm hospitality at the Kostenko family home is evident. Hot tea, meat pies and a cool raspberry meringue cake are laid out on the best plates. They still feel a little hesitant with English, but they shouldn’t. They attribute their proficiency to the LINC program. LINC, or Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada, offers free classes to adults. LINC is located at 85 Larch St. in Sudbury’s downtown. The Kostenkos commit to being there, of never missing a class. 

Mother, Olha, daughters Olena (21), Sofiia (15), and father Yevhenii are continuously learning. “Our names are from a different origin. English is a challenging language.” 

It sure is.

Olha is working at the Hilton Garden Inn. Greeting guests pushes her to advance her language skills. “The people of Sudbury have been very kind to us,” she said.

The family nods in unison to the value of acceptance of multiculturalism in Sudbury. “There have always been Ukrainians here. Good people. Wonderful people.”

Olena reminds me that she more often uses Helen as her Canadian name. “I work at Tim Hortons,” she says proudly. Nothing could be more Canadian than that. 

“Maybe I will go to university. Here, I can follow any dream. Maybe I can enrol in the police force.” 

Sofiia is finishing Grade 9 at Sudbury Secondary. “My math marks could be better, but I love the arts.”

“RNIP and Erika Kadar were very helpful to our being here and becoming part of Sudbury,” Yevhenii noted.

RNIP — the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot — has been instrumental in connecting new arrivals with job opportunities. “I work in the construction industry, doing drywall, but also framing,” he said.

“I came in November 2021, before the family. The war (with Russia) started and my boss said he was going to help to move the family. He did. By May 2022 they were here with me. Our town is in the middle of the Ukraine and the battles were all around.

“We got our PR cards about a month ago. Our next step is citizenship. Ohla’s brother and mother, are still in Ukraine. It is impossible for men to leave now. Somehow they seem to survive.”

Why did they choose Canada and specifically Sudbury? Yevhenii reflects: “You won’t believe it, but I didn’t know about Sudbury. No surprise, we have found Sudbury is the right size for us. We will stay here. 

“No, we can’t live in Toronto. It’s too big for us. It is quieter here. Sudbury has everything we need. Canada has always been a dream of ours. Sudbury has really impressed us. 

“We love winter. Snow has gone from Europe because of climate change. We love to skate on Ramsey Lake or in the two arenas: we like Countryside. In the summer we were going to Windy Lake almost every weekend.

“We are very grateful to be here. Because we got help, we do and will give back, and help others.”

The student

PhD candidate Victorine Obia landed here in January. Born here was her baby, Nehemiah, who is just three months old. Three weeks ago, her husband, Elijah, and six-year-old daughter Esther arrived from Nigeria. They acknowledge summer is an easier time to get used to Canada. 

Esther wants to use all the playgrounds she sees across the city. Esther is looking forward to tobogganing and making a snowman. Right now, she loves ice cream. 

“Elijah does not like cold, I hope he can survive,” Victorine said.

Victorine saw the Big Nickel and wondered when she would get there. “We look forward to having a car and exploring more. I am surprised about the roads here, though. The condition of the roads reminds me of Nigeria. I did not expect that.”

Why Canada and Sudbury? “Funny thing. Ever since I was in secondary school, I dreamt of living in Canada. My husband and I have been together seven years and recently he too revealed he had the same desire. 

“Laurentian (University’s) Human and Interdisciplinary Studies fit my plans. I have a year of core classes now. I majored in film and script writing for my master’s.

“There is coursework, but right now I am learning a crash course in baby.”

She thought first about researching Nigerians in Canada, “but my supervisor has been suggesting I should consider doing a documentary on indigeneity.”

It is a new beginning for this family. “It will give our children amazing opportunities. There is greater access to education. Here in Canada, there is an encouragement to achieve and advance.

“I see lots of trees and so much green. We have no family here but look forward to making many new friends.” 

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

X: @SudburyStar

By Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 01, 2024 at 02:34

This item reprinted with permission from   The Sudbury Star    Sudbury, Ontario
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