Most people born on Canadian soil dig deep roots and remain planted. While we may venture outside our borders, we keep our compasses loyally pointed to the True North.
Consistently ranked in the top ten for social progress, Canada comes ahead of the USA, Australia, and the U.K. for personal freedom, choice, mobility, and human needs.
It’s why this country attracts immigrants from distinct corners of the world, looking for the same things: economic freedom, opportunity and space, even adventure.
Every immigrant woman profiled for this issue on diversity, tells a bittersweet story of the sadness inherent in leaving behind family, friends, and homeland; the excitement, wonder, and gratitude of landing in Canada; the many challenges—and rewards—of finding her voice in a new nation.
Marina Dobrynina: RUSSIA
Forty-year old Marina looks like a Russian model with her long, blonde hair, big eyes, and curvaceous figure, yet there’s something decidedly Italian about her, with her elegant up-to-the-minute fashion, and penchant for pasta.
Not surprising since Dobrynina says she’s a little bit of both—all the while working at becoming a true Canadian.
“My husband and I bought a house and it comes with a backyard,” she says, laughing. “I’m trying to like yard work.”
Relatively new to Kelowna (she moved five years ago), for Dobrynina, relocating is old hat. Born in Volgograd, the third biggest city in Russia, she left home at eighteen to become a hairstylist in Moscow. “That’s where it all happens, in the capital.”
A trip to Thailand, where she met her husband of eleven years, set her on a course for new countries. An Italian from Parma, he asked her to move to Italy. She absolutely loved it: the food, the fashion, and the fun, but mastering the language was another matter. After ten years she was feeling more Italian, but the economy wasn’t so promising.
Her husband, a chef, now working at Valarosa Foods, had friends in Kelowna who could help him, so they took a gamble and came to the Okanagan.
“Canada is welcoming to all kinds of newcomers,” Dobrynina says. “In Italy, they only love you if you’re Italian!”
Once again, learning a new language posed the greatest challenge.
“My husband speaks English with a strong Italian accent… I’m still working on mine.”
Taking advantage of free tutoring at Project Literacy Kelowna, Dobrynina credits the nonprofit organization with helping her get a better foothold and introducing her first Russian friend. “When you know one Russian, you know the whole community,” she jokes.
A lover of the lake, skiing, cycling and yoga, she is at home in Kelowna. Of course she misses her family back in Russia, but she’s finding friendship here.
“Canadians are so helpful!” she enthuses. “When you ask, ‘Can you help me?’ they say yes. In fact they say, ‘Can I help you?’”
Employing strategies like writing what she wants in her iPhone and showing clerks who can help, her command of the language continues to grow. Working from home as a hairstylist, she’d love to teach at an academy, and take the higher English courses she’s ready for, but all in due time.