In 1997, I found myself left with two choices: return to the precarious situation in post-war Bosnia, or immigrate to another country. There is no life during a war: you hide, wait for the army to come, and hope that you will survive another day. You live in constant fear. Due to the uncertainties associated with returning to a post-war environment, immigration was our only alternative to returning to Bosnia. We soon began our application and were quickly approved.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by volunteers at the airport who provided us with all of the necessities we needed to adapt to life in Canada. Among these items were a selection of winter clothing, which we were incredibly grateful for. We immigrated in January – one of the coldest Canadian months – so supplying winter apparel for us was very considerate. This treatment was overwhelmingly thoughtful. We did not expect the extent of support and accommodations that were provided to us. People in Canada invariably tried to make us feel at home. The promptness of support and resources that were supplied was one of the greatest joys I felt upon arriving in Canada.
It took a long time for us to adjust, primarily because of the large communication barrier. Upon arrival in Canada, I did not speak any English. It was difficult learning a new language but the Canadian government supported us through an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. This course established a foundation upon which my academic and professional lives would flourish. The Canadian government supported us financially throughout our education which helped my family live comfortably. Although the language barrier was the largest adjustment I had to make upon coming to Canada, I was fortunate enough to be provided with extensive support and resources.
Without a doubt, the Canadian government helped the most while adjusting to life in Canada. The government consistently provided translators in all institutions while we were learning English. We even received help in finding a new home in Canada. The government covered all financial costs accompanying education and academic upgrades, while also helping us with the cost of living. This relieved us of a huge financial burden that would have only accumulated. I expected immigrating with a young child to be difficult, however I did not expect the hospitality that I was welcomed with. With all of the support that was given to us, we felt that we had now achieved security. This was one of the greatest joys in immigrating to Canada because it was something that we had not experienced in Bosnia. This security allowed us to travel, visit our friends and family, and pursue opportunities that would not have been possible in our home country.
Reflecting on my experience, a piece of advice that I could give to other newcomers would be to prepare for the cold Canadian winters! This was the biggest surprise upon coming to Canada because the temperatures are considerably different from what we were accustomed to. I actually wanted to leave immediately because of the cold weather, but I knew that I would adapt in no time. Adjusting to the different lifestyle here was not a quick transition, but the people in Canada made the process manageable. If we had not received the immense volume of support and security that was afforded us, this story would be very different.
Immigrating to Canada has exceeded all expectations and goals that I initially envisioned for myself and my family. We have gotten much more than we expected and we could not have done it without the overwhelming generosity and support of the people in Canada. When we first arrived in Canada, we were not sure if we would make it through all of the inevitable struggles and uncertainties that accompany immigration. However, the process was made easier with the ongoing assistance that we received. Today, Canada has provided my family with a myriad of opportunities that have allowed us to progress and live a comfortable life. Immigration may not be easy, but it is definitely worthwhile in the end.
Please note that certain facts have been altered for anonymity
This story is a collaborative effort between Raelynn Tkachuk and Sara Ulak