From an interview with Mykola Buryeyev. (shown here with his wife Iryna)
Mykola came to Canada from Ukraine in December 2013 to visit his brother, who lived in Saskatchewan. It was just to visit. As a young entrepreneur, life was pretty good back home. He had degrees in computer science and project management and was self-employed. He had never dreamed of immigrating.
For Mykola, to leave Ukraine as an immigrant would be like going to another planet. A few days after arriving in Canada, his parents phoned to say that something very bad was happening in Ukraine and that they were glad the brothers were together and safe in Canada. In early 2014, the Ukrainian revolution began: protestors and government forces clashed, and the streets of Kyiv became a war zone. Everything had changed. Mykola shared his story of going on a vacation and falling in love with Canada.
I was not a willing immigrant to Canada. At that time, my belief was, “Where you are born is your home. It’s where you must live your life.” After I was here for a couple of months, my brother said to me, “You know what? This is the country where I should have been born.” I looked around; I had met so many nice people, friendly people, kind people. I started to discover the Canadian lifestyle, and I realized this is the way people need to live. It’s only 150 years old, and people from all around the world have come here to follow their hopes and dreams for a better life. And they found it here, in Canada.
Canada is a country where people are willing to help – honestly
I realized that Canada is a country for people, you can be whatever you want, and people are willing to help. You can become professional in any field, and unlike Ukraine, there doesn’t appear to be much corruption. When I was in Ukraine, if you wanted to have a profitable business, you needed to pay people off – it could be someone from the tax office or even a corrupt fire department official who could threaten to shut down your office if you refused to pay. It was a part of life. If it didn’t happen to you, you probably knew someone who had experienced it.
Here, you don’t need to bend to anyone. If you want to do something, you can just do it. For example, when I decided to start my immigration process to stay in the country, to change my status in Canada, my brother told me about the program available to help me become a permanent resident and attain a work permit: the Saskatchewan Immigration Nominee Program (SNIP).
Learn more about How to Apply for Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)
My first job was working at a family-run fast food restaurant. That job would really help my Permanent resident status. The owner listened to me and said that they had this opportunity, but if I was going to do the job just for my documents, they weren’t interested. It was their business; it was a big part of their life and that they worked long hours. She said they were willing to help me if I would help them. I told her that I would do my very best for two years. And that was that agreement.
Find out more about immigration to Canada with the Arrive immigration webinar.
Canada quickly started to feel like home, like my community
I felt their sense of community – caring for others. And it was strange to me. The idea of neighbourhood and community was very different. In Canada, it seemed that people cared about people in general. In Ukraine, the attitude might often be “ it’s not my business.” I have done this myself. Here, people build families, neighbourhoods and communities.
For example, when I first arrived in Canada, I was in the grocery store, standing and looking at the shelf, trying to find some common product. A person walked by, looked me in the eyes (probably saw I was lost), smiled and said, “can I help you?” A total stranger, just passing by, like they weren’t doing anything special. For me, it was a big deal.
“I am grateful to Canada, the country that has become my home, gave me hope and showed me how to be a better person.
I’m very appreciative of my first employer Tammy Cowper-Langmaier and my managers Corra Cambell, Scott Magee and Matthew Horvath. I met a lot of amazing people during my journey: Andrew, D’Arcy, Aleksandr, Scott, Ana, Peter, Cristin, Geoff, Richard, and so many good friends who became like family, like Philip Smith and Marilyn Church who became my Canadian parents.
I want to thank my parents, brother, cousin and my lovely wife, everyone who supported me.
I love you!”
Canada is a country where people smile and they mean it
My experience in Ukraine was that when someone you didn’t know smiled at you, it probably meant there was something wrong with your outfit or your hair, or maybe you had dirt on your face. When I first arrived in Canada, I didn’t smile for two weeks, and everybody thought that something was really, really wrong with me.
Smile back at people. This is your home; this is your life. And people around you, they could be strangers, but we’re all part of a society with common ideals. People say hello, and everybody smiles.
Finding adventure, love and starting a new life in Canada
In 2016 I became a permanent resident. Things started to happen. My brother knew a lot of people, and one of his connections knew someone who needed to transport RVs (recreational vehicles – like campers) from the US to places across Canada.
So I opened a business with my brother; we bought a pickup truck, and for eighteen months, I towed RVs all over the country. I drove more than 200,000 kilometres and discovered Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. That was a really huge adventure and a great achievement for me.
During this time, I started speaking to Iryna (now my wife). We spoke for an hour, two hours, then four hours a day – every day. We soon realized that we had so much in common, and we needed to see each other as soon as possible. I was young, strong and free, but I realized that I needed someone next to me, and I wanted to start a family – and I wanted to do it here in Canada.
I don’t know if it was destiny or the stars aligning, or whatever, but I knew Iryna was the one person for me. She was in Ukraine, so we applied for her visitor visa. She was refused at first and was afraid of being rejected again, but knew that if we were going to be together, she would have to move here to Canada.
Eventually, Iryna flew to Toronto. I picked her up, and we drove to Halifax. On our way back, we stopped at Niagara Falls. We went on the Maid of the Mist boat trip under the falls, and I proposed to her there.
We drove back to Regina and got married.
It turned out that my wife had an allergy to dry air (Saskatchewan has very dry air), so we decided to move to Toronto, to Newmarket, just north of the city. People here are also very open and friendly. It’s amazing.
Curious to know more about settling in Ontario? Read our introduction to Ontario for newcomers.
I have worked in many different roles, gained amazing Canadian experience, and I’m exploring going back to my field of computer science and project management. Specifically, in the area of cybersecurity and Toronto will be the future centre for computer science in the world.
I’m looking for a career where I can combine all of my experience, where I can gain whatever it will take to help secure our country, so Canadians don’t have to stop being open and kind and generous. I believe in Canada. I believe in people and that together we can build a brighter future for our kids. This is the right place to start a family. This is where I want to be.
In Canada, you can make a fresh start.
Be open, be kind and don’t be afraid to ask.
Dream big, work hard, and you will get whatever you want.
Bring your experience, gain more, and you will grow.
It’s not about title or position. It’s about being more human.
Relax. Don’t worry, most people here are immigrants.
Educate yourself about Canada. Learn from people who have made the journey.
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