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I was born in the big industrial city of Kryvyi Rih (pronounced kree-voy-rog) in a middle class family. My parents worked hard to provide a good life for their children. I have two sisters. My sister, Luda, is fifteen years older than me and my other sister, Natasha, who is now passed, would be thirteen years older than me.

My family is very close and loving but sometimes life takes on a different direction. My parents separated after 23 years of marriage. It was a huge shock to me and everyone else. At that time, both of my sisters were married to Vova and Sasha who were brothers.

Life between my father and mother became difficult and so my mother found another man and moved in with him. I was very upset because, like most children, I wanted both parents to live together. I dreamed and prayed that they would reconcile and be back together again. I travelled back and forth between my mother’s apartment, my father’s apartment and the apartments of my sisters. I lived with my mom but every weekend I lived with my dad or my sisters. I was not happy to live with my mother and her new companion and was very angry with him because I believed that he was the reason that my mother and father were not together.

When I was twelve years old, I decided to move in with my father. I was happy to be in the place where I grew up and to have a feeling of peace because I was very close to my father. I could open my heart to him and could trust that he would never judge me, criticize me or speak about my personal things to anyone else. It was my responsibility to take on the house chores of cleaning, washing and cooking. Life was hard and I grew up very fast. But I always had a feeling that something amazing would happen and that I would some day be the happiest woman in the world.

Natasha always told me that she had a premonition that in the future, I would be very happy, but that I would be living very far away.

I started working outside the house when I was fourteen years old. I had many jobs and found employment at the hospital, at the market, at a cable company, as a waitress and several other places. It was hard to keep a job there but I needed to help my father. At that time was when the former Soviet Union was going through what was called “Perestroika” (meaning reconstruction) and it was the collapse of the former USSR. This resulted in huge inflation of prices and all of the hard working people who had saved money for the future lost their savings.

My sister, Luda, had a baby who they named Lena. I was asked to do a lot of babysitting but I loved it. A couple of years later, my other sister, Natasha, had a baby boy they named Sam. Their families were very nice, loving and they spent lots of time together as they also lived close together in the same apartment building. I dreamt to have a family as beautiful and loving as theirs was. I had a strong feeling and dreamt of finding a perfect man who would be caring, loving, a close friend and who would never betray me.

Many people told me that I was delusional to dream of finding a soul-mate. Soul-mates, they told me, was just a fantasy and didn’t actually exist. But I had a strong feeling that I would find him and I ignored them when they mocked me for my dreams.

My sisters put their children in a special English school where they started learning English from the first grade. At that time I had no idea that this might affect my future. Natasha had another child, a boy, whom they named Tomofey (Tim). I spent a lot of time with my nephews and niece as did my sister, Natashia. She was the best mother, sister and friend who always put everyone else before herself. Life was good and all was going well. My niece, Lena, hired an English tutor, Laura, so that she might improve her English speaking ability.

I had heard lots about Laura but at that time I did not have the opportunity to meet her. She was a talented teacher, but had a reputation for being quite hard on her students. I also discovered that Laura also earned money translating documents and other material for foreign companies and individuals from Canada and the United States. Lena told me about one of Laura’s Canadian clients, Frederick, that she had been doing a lot of translation for. As Frederick frequently came to Ukraine for business, she had come to know him and the type of person he was. She told Lena about Frederick and, understanding that Lena had an aunt, suggested that they should be introduced. Lena agreed to float the idea to me.

But when Lena asked me about this I panicked. I could not speak English, we were from different worlds and I couldn’t imagine how it could work out. I told her firmly that I didn’t think it was a good idea. However, my sisters and my niece all pushed me to meet him. At the same time, Laura was trying to convince Frederick to meet me and his reaction was quite similar to mine. However, in order to finally get peace, Frederick and myself agreed to meet one time as he was coming to Ukraine again for other business.

He arrived in Ukraine in May of 2000. Myself, Laura and Vova travelled to Kiev to greet him. I was not expecting the strange and magical energy that surrounded us. It was as if we had met before. I felt a kind of memory that I had been missing this person for many past lives. At this time, while Frederick could speak a little Russian, Laura was translating for us most of the time.

When we arrived at my city, my sisters had already prepared a nice dinner and Lena took over the job as translator. Everything was amazing and I had a strong feeling that I would be with this man for the rest of my life. I couldn’t get past the feeling that we had known each other in a different life.

We travelled around Ukraine and went to the Crimea to be by the Black Sea. Our time together was like a dream and it was clear that Frederick felt the same way. His feelings for me were so strong that he actually missed his flight to return to Canada!

After he returned to Canada, I felt a great sadness and loneliness because I believed that he would never be back. But to my surprise, he began the long and complicated process to have me immigrate to Canada. It was very hard to be apart and so he decided to return for a visit to celebrate the 2001 New Year. I was very excited and happy.

But at that time in my family we experienced an unexpected and horrible thing. My sister, Natasha, was diagnosed with having pancreatic cancer. It was the most horrifying news that we had ever had. The doctors said that she only had three months to live. They released her from the hospital to spend her last days at home. You cannot imagine how hard it was for me to see my beloved sister dying a little bit more every day.

My mother was a really strong woman who spent every day, from the morning until the evening, doing the chores at Natasha’s apartment. I also came to help and to take the children to school. There was a lot of trauma for us all and we had a hard time accepting the truth. We all hoped that somehow a miracle would happen and Natasha would get better. Everyone could not understand why Natashia would be punished so much because she was so young and was such an amazing person. It just seemed so very unfair.

Frederick came that year for Christmas and the New Year. I was conflicted in my feelings. I was so very happy to see him but I was also tormented knowing that Natashia was dying. Our New Year celebration was nice, but since Natashia was so sick and weak, she couldn’t have the evening she hoped. Despite this, she stayed with us the whole evening. She was so distressed by this because she so much wanted to celebrate with the family.

Woodworking was one of Frederick’s hobbies and so he made three identical jewelry boxes, one for each sister. It was a very kind and sentimental gesture.

Again the time came for Frederick to return to Canada, which only deepened my depression as now I was losing another person whom I had such a deep love for.

On February 23, 2002, Natashia succumbed to the cancer and passed away. This was unbelievably hard for all of my family. Her boys were still very young and my mother was depressed and devastated as well. It was such a horrible time with so much trauma, and I didn’t ever want this as part of my life. Frederick immediately phoned me when he got the news by email that Natashia had passed and gave his sympathy to us all. He was lucky enough to have met Natashia and so he had the opportunity to get to know her and to discover what an amazing person she was.

In May of 2002, Frederick came back again. He bought me a beautiful engagement ring and we decided to hold an engagement party for my family because I knew that it wouldn’t be possible for them to come to my actual wedding in Canada. It was a great party! It was just like a wedding. We wrote each other vows. We danced, ate and partied like there was no tomorrow. Luda had sewn a beautiful wedding dress for me and everyone wanted to see me in it and asked me to try it on. While I understood that the tradition was not to wear the dress before my wedding day, it felt like our wedding day to us and so I agreed to put it on. It was so beautiful and everyone complimented me on how I looked.

Once more the time came for Frederick to return to Canada. It seemed that each time became harder and harder and being apart was so difficult for us both. But shortly later, in November, the news came that my visa to come to Canada had been approved. Frederick booked a flight for me to come to Canada on December 15th.

I was very excited but at the same time I was also very afraid and stressed because Canada is on the opposite side of the world and so I would be so far away from my family, culture, language and all that was familiar to me. Not only that, it was also going to be the first time in my life that I had flown on a plane or had taken such a long trip by myself. But my love was so strong that I knew I would be happy with Frederick. He had claimed my heart and I was certain that he was the one who I wished to spend my life with.

But after this first experience of traveling on a plane, I quickly grew to love it and the adventures that travel brought.

I arrived in Canada on December 16, 2002. Frederick and his mother, Margaret was at the airport to meet me. It was so nice to see them after such a long trip. Though I had difficulty speaking English, Frederick’s Russian was good enough for him to be able to do some basic translation for me. It was very interesting for me, because it was just before Christmas and I was enthralled with all of the Christmas lights, decorations and beauty that everyone had done to their houses and businesses.

Suddenly my life changed. It changed to adventure, beauty land love. A life that I had only dreamed about.

At that time, Frederick was working on his business Digital Design, which was about creating web sites, marketing, graphic art and advertising. I was new to this country and though I had no idea what was involved with this work, I felt shut out because he was spending so much time in front of his computer. I felt very alone, being away from my country and family and this loneliness often turned to tears. Frederick was very understanding and through his limited Russian, and with the help of the Russian-English dictionary, we were able to communicate. He was so patient with me and gave me so much support. Despite the feelings of nostalgia for my country, I never doubted that he was the one that I would be with for the rest of my life. His kindness and care reinforced that I had made the right decision.

But after seeing my tears and understanding that I missed my family so much, after only six months he agreed to take me back to Ukraine to see my family again. It was good for me, and I appreciate what he did, but my family was confused why I was back so soon. They had no idea how I felt, how it was to go way from evereything I had grown up with, to be in a strange country and culture. For me, it was more like being away for six years than for six months.

Because Frederick had a home business and could not afford to be away from it for very long, he could only stay for two weeks. However, to give me peace, he allowed me to stay longer to visit with my family. But after he went back, I soon realized that what I really missed was him. It was not long before I realized that my heart was really with him and not in Ukraine. After he left for Canada, I was sorry that I had came back to Ukraine and wanted only to return to Canada to be with him.

When I came back, we decided to open up a photography studio that we called Editions by Frederick. He understood that I was left out and alone when he was working on his computer, and so he wanted to start a business that I could also be a part of. Frederick worked as a photographer for many years before he became sidetracked by computer graphics, and he also missed creating photo art. But I had no idea what was involved with opening up a new business. I was new to North America and I had no idea about the difficulties or problems that surrounds beginning a new company.

It was one of the most educational experiences for me. To be part of setting up a new business taught me so much about what it was like to be an entrepreneur in North America.

One of the things that we immediately needed was to develop a portfolio. Frederick wanted me to model for some of the images and I was terrified. I had not done modeling before. I hated having a camera pointed at me. But with Frederick’s encouragement, I agreed to try. But every time we did a new image, I began to believe more and more. I soon came to trust his eye and creative vision and the results quickly grew into an impressive portfolio. Because Frederick had also taken a break from photography to do Digital Design, his knowledge of computer graphics opened a new door and the range of possibilities became limitless. It opened my eyes to understand that photography is a true art and that what I had understood to be a photograph was but a small shadow of the possibilities.

He is the passion of my life because without him I would have never believed that I could do this. He has raised my self esteem and made me feel like a beautiful woman. I contributed by creating costumes. I went back to school to study hair and makeup. Soon our work got lots of attention and was even published in well know magazines like “Heavy Metal”, numerous books, newspapers, and even the CTV television network did two special segments on us. Recently we published a set of Tarot cards called “The Sensual Goddess Tarot” which was three years in the making and features me as the main model.

However, after being in Canada for three years, I received the news that my father had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I was devastated because he was not just my father but also my good friend and I loved him dearly. Frederick understood how close I was to my father and so he agreed that I should return to Ukraine to care for him. He had only been given three months to live. Frederick bought me ticket to stay there for three months. It was the longest three months of my life.

When I arrived in Ukraine, he was so happy to see me. At this time he was still in the hospital but there was not much that they could do to help him. He became more of a research subject for them. They wanted to find out where and how the cancer started. But the cancer was too far advanced for them to really help him.

My mother came back to his apartment to help care for him. He had no interest in staying in the hospital to be an experimental bunny. He decided to leave the hospital and spend his last days at home with me and my mother.

Although I was very sad to know that my father was dying, there was also a part of me that was grateful to see my mother and father back together again. My father was also so very happy to see his family together because it was always his dream to see his wife come back.

My mother is a strong person. It seems like if there is anything bad that happens in your life, she is always there to help. I was so happy to connect with her and to learn more about who she really was as a person. Her actions during this time has left me with a great deal of admiration for her.

After a month, when the cancer had spread and started to affect his brain, he became mentally unstable. This is when my mother and I decided that he needed to be watched 24 hours a day and so we took turns watching over him. In the second month after my arrival, my father fell into a coma. For seven days he stayed in the coma and it was very hard for me to see. Again I was seeing another beloved member of my family dying in front of my eyes.

One night a chill came over me. I felt as though I was in a freezer. I put many coats and blankets over me but the cold would not go away. I went to his room and could see that his breathing was not normal. I spoke softly to him “Papa, it’s alright. You can go in peace!”. Immediately, he was gone.

I still had one month remaining to be in Ukraine and my mother was, during that time, a great friend for me. Her partner, his name is Kolya, had now been with my mother for 25 years. I soon understood that he had never done anything bad towards me and that it was just my foolish childhood memories that painted him this way. Now I understand that he has always been there for my mother and I now understand that he is really a good man.

I also understood that when I did go back to Canada to be with my sweetheart husband that she would not be alone. She would have a person who would stand by her for any emergency or needs that she may have. I have come to respect him.

And so, I returned to Canada.

After this last experience, I understood how painful it was to be apart from Frederick and I vowed that I would never be apart from him again, not even for a very short time.

Frederick is an amazing man. He has been with me through many hard times and I feel from him lots of love, support and never any judgement. It is like opening your wings to fly and being perfectly safe and understood. He always listens to me. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to have a husband who will always stand by me, and who I can trust.

We have a beautiful house that we work from. Frederick is also talented in woodworking and this is also an art because in his soul he is the consummate artist. I admire him because he never quits what he starts. Everything he touches becomes art and he always finishes his projects. I have learned a lot from him. He is my mentor. He is a man that I will never want to be away from. I share with him all of my thoughts and learn his wisdom. I love him dearly!

As an aside, speaking about his woodworking hobby, I want to mention our garage cat Quasimodo. We call him Quasi. He is an amazing cat! He actually came to us one day from the street. He was very beaten up and in horrible shape. I do not know who or what did him this harm, but he was close to death. He was really afraid of people. Frederick, with his big heart, started to feed him, care for him and bring him back from the brink. Shortly thereafter, winter came and Frederick decided to make a cat door in the garage and to set up a bed, heat lamp and put food and a litter box inside the garage for him. It was not long before Quasi understood that this was his new home and began to feel the love that was offered him. Slowly he began to trust again. Very quickly he felt the love that was offered and began to bond with us, but he was still afraid of other people. The garage is an unlikely place for a cat to be. Most cats would be afraid of all of the load noises from the saws and other tools, but for him, it was a safe shelter from the rest of the world. I admire Frederick for his love and compassion for animals. What was once “Quasimodo” because of his ugly appearance, became simply “Quasi” who now looks more like the cartoon cat, Garfield.

We also have two rescue cats in the house. We have Lucky, with extra toes, that he uses like a little monkey and sometimes I am not sure if he is a cat or a dog. We have another cat, Star, who is adopted from the Meow Foundation. We call him a “security cat” because she is afraid of her own shadow. I suspect she also had a hard childhood but we love her dearly.

I am very happy now with my new family. My husband gives me every day his love. He always says to me “I love you” every day. Unlike some men who may say “I told you last year I loved you. I’ll let you know when it changes!”. But not him. And it is the same with me. I want to give him as much love as I can and to be the best friend for him that I can. I am very happy to wake up in the morning and see someone beside me who I love dearly. I will be forever with him. Those who say that soul-mates do not exist are wrong!

Frederick has a great family that I am happy to be a part of. I am also happy to be a part of his family. His mother, Margaret, is amazing and is now over 95 years old. She treated me like her daughter from the first time I arrived in Canada. She always warns Frederick; “Now you treat her good!”. A 95 year old woman who still lives by herself with a sharp mind, no oxygen or other support and is very independent. She is a breast cancer survivor and her love to her family is what she says is what keeps her going. I consider her to be an inspiration and also my second mom.

It would be very nice if every family could learn from her inspiration and be closer to each other. It would be nice if they could set aside their egos and understand that family is the most important thing.

Life is a beautiful journey. Learn. Teach. Feel. Smell the world. I am happy to be in this life and to meet so many wonderful people. Life may be full of hard times and good times, but either way we will all learn a lot.

My husband has several talents. I respect and admire him. As I write this, it will soon be our tenth anniversary of our marriage and every day I love him more and more. He is my life, my love and my best friend!