It’s hard to believe, but I have been living in Canada for 10 years now – a whole decade!
When Olga and I came here, we didn’t expect all of this. It was never our plan to own three restaurants or partner with farmers to cook with fresh, local ingredients.
Just like many immigrants, we wanted something simple, a home where we could raise a family; a community where we could grow. Alberta, to us, was a land of opportunity, where we could build a better life for ourselves and our children.
Along the way, I have learned so much!
Though our story is a little unusual, I believe many immigrants go through a similar journey. At the end of something this big, you come out changed – you come out Canadian.
So while the friction with immigrants might always exist, I want to take a moment and revisit our story, and explain how it’s connected so closely with the people in our community: Southern Alberta.
But before I say anything else about myself, I need to thank the people and organizations that have worked with Olga and me to make this possible.
- The farmers of southern Alberta
- All our supporters in Picture Butte, Lethbridge and beyond
- Everyone who has eaten at our restaurants
- Everyone reading this
- Community Futures
Thank you all so much. Without the support of the amazing community in Southern Alberta, we would never be where we are today!
Building into community
So many times when we talk about immigration, the people get lost in the politics. When people start arguing about numbers and liberal vs conservative, it’s easy to lose sight of the lives immigrants live and focus on winning the argument.
I will probably never forget being told to go home because I was stealing Canadian jobs. As a new immigrant, that was very difficult for me and I felt unwelcome in my new country.
Today, I am very proud to say that I have created jobs in two towns and three restaurants. I have managers, servers, bartenders and cooks working in my restaurants, along with the work I contract out to various small companies here in Southern Alberta.
But, more than that, I’m proud of the relationships we’ve been able to make with all the farmers and ranchers in the region. Together, we’ve taken our passion for food and farming and combined them to create strong relationships, great recipes and beneficial economic ties.
Now, I know my restaurants are more than places to eat or work. They are central parts of the local community and economy that helps bind this place together!
Celebrating moving forward
Though Olga and I were born in countries thousands of kilometres away, today we are proud parents to Canadian kids. Because they were born here, they have endless opportunities in their future. That is an amazing gift to give to a child!
While Olga and I are very proud of where we came from and our story of immigration, creating this new life in Canada, in Southern Alberta, has now grown to define our lives and our family.
Most days, in fact, I don’t feel like an immigrant anymore. Olga and I are Canadians. Our kids are Canadians and speak without even an accent. They know pop culture like every other kid at their school.
So, in this tenth year of being here, in our home, we want to celebrate both the people who have been born and raised here and make this place so special, as well as all the immigrants who have added so much to our restaurants and to our community.
Together, we bring such strength that will continue to grow Southern Alberta into a thriving place we can all be proud of.