Sergei, a Ukrainian who was building a career as a digital specialist in Kiev, went to the other continent to visit his loved ones and see the city. After wandering around the metropolis, he decided to stay there and enrolled in college. Sergey shared his impressions of life in one of the largest and most extraordinary cities in the world

My Canada started with a promise to visit my godson in his homeland, which means I had to get to Toronto. Obviously, Canadians are well aware of how far they are from Ukraine, so they gave me a year to get my thoughts together and to find cheaper tickets. But those "cheaper" tickets kept coming back to Italy and Portugal. At some point I realized that I had to leave right away, at least not to disrespect the visa issuing authorities. So I flew for a two-week vacation, which lasted at least a couple of years.

The idea to live outside Ukraine had occurred to me for a long time, but it was a serious business: one had to decide where, choose the right moment, prepare ... And here I found myself in an English-speaking country, loyal to foreigners, with the support of family and friends and a six-month visa.

My visitor status did not allow me to be a member of Canadian society for at least a short period of time, and being a tourist for more than a couple of weeks was somehow unsporting. A review of the options yielded a disappointing result: there are few legal opportunities to obtain temporary resident status. And if you leave out exotics such as refugees and investments in the Canadian economy, there is essentially one: to become a student.

I have received so many questions on this subject that it is worth to dwell on this point separately. Getting a work visa to Canada for the Ukrainian is almost unreal. In order to legally work in Canada you actually need a call from the employer. The latter, in its turn, in order to formalize such a call, has to prove that no Canadian citizen is suitable for this workplace, and execute a pile of documents with a professional lawyer. So if you are not, say, a certified deep-sea welder, no one will risk getting involved. If you are a company relocates you from its Ukrainian office - another thing, but that's another story.

Getting a student visa is relatively easy. And this is a temporary resident status, which allows you to work legally (part-time during the study and full-time during vacations, sabbaticals and internships) plus health insurance. After your studies, you are entitled to an open work visa for at least the duration of your studies. Your spouse is immediately eligible for an open work visa for the duration of your studies. You have to pay for your studies, although there are chances to get a scholarship - I know people like that in Canada.

Becoming a student is easier before you come to Canada: you confirm your English level with IELTS or TOEFL, apply to a college or university, pay at least for the first semester, get a permission to study at the consulate in your home country, and you can go. If you, like me, decide to do it directly in Canada, it's a bit more complicated, but also doable. All in all, the process from the beginning of the research to actually getting the work and study permits took all the time I had allotted to stay in Canada on a tourist visa - half a year. But it was an interesting and rewarding six months: I became comfortable speaking English, began to understand the local realities, and even in preparation for studying I recalled long-forgotten technical skills by making a small website about real estate in Canada.

Anyway, I got my temporary Canadian residency and now I can confidently share my insights.


About Toronto itself

Toronto is a modern Babylon. And there are fewer and fewer native Babylonians here, but the whole world, except North Korea and Antarctica, is represented in all its glory, with its neighborhoods, restaurants, stores, media, and churches. As far as I know, there is nowhere else like it.

In addition to the Anglo-Saxons themselves, Toronto is full of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Indians and Pakistanis, Jews, Iranians, Poles, Ukrainians and Afro-Canadians. Among my new friends and acquaintances, there are also Venezuelans, Turks, Brazilians, Japanese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankans, Singaporeans, Chileans, and Portuguese, just to name a few. 

Canadians are usually very polite and considerate to each other. The person in front of you will hold the door, sincerely thank you for the same on your part, apologize for accidentally hitting you, smile when you meet with a look, offer to help. The other day I was asked if I need help when I slowed down in a stream of people to deal with the signs on the wall.

I saw a situation where a teenager with a cello case got on the bus and found that all his pocket money had gone on sheet music and buns. One of the passengers sitting next to him stood up, threw three dollars for the lost one, and sat back down silently.

It is amazing how the darkness of people from completely different cultural backgrounds, settling in Toronto, find the local environment so comfortable that without any pressure they switch to the lighter side of the force, and themselves contribute to the conversion of another hundred thousand fresh blood in the future.

But there are also more unusual for the Slavic mentality of behavior. For example, it is not customary here to give way to women in transport. For the elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities, yes. Feminism has won here. No one will stop on the way to pick up a lonely commuter, either for money or for nothing. Even if the weather's crappy. Either everyone believes in the power of public transportation or something else. Accordingly, no one votes.mid9Photo: Sergey Pinigin

Toronto is a big city. Especially when it comes to the GTA - Greater Toronto Area. This is a city with its satellite cities, which together with more than 7 thousand square kilometers of territory and 6 million people is the largest metropolitan area in Canada.

At the same time, much of the city - it is a dismal building of private houses or seedy high-rises with local bursts of urban activity in the shopping malls and a cluster of bars, clubs and stores.mid10Foto: Sergey Pinigin

The only place you find true urban life is downtown. Here you have everything that any modern metropolis deserves: a half-kilometer high symbol of the city - CN Tower, colorful restaurants for every taste, streets of skyscrapers, beloved parks and squares, almost marine waterfront of Lake Ontario with ships at the pier, with the National Geographic recognized the best food market in the world - St. Lawrence Market. Lawrence Market with 200 years of history, the Victorian distillery, talentedly transformed into the colorful Distillery District, Chinatown, Coria Town, the epic Hockey Hall of Fame, the oceanarium, the stone buildings of the University of Toronto and much more.

PATH deserves special attention: a 30-kilometre underground city that allows residents to stay indoors altogether if they wish. Many homes have their own subway entrances, so you can walk straight from your apartment down to the subway, drive to the station with your office, and straight into the sweetheart of open space. At lunchtime you can still, without going outside, go for lunch, go shopping, sit in the park with a fountain or, say, get a haircut.

After taking the ferry to the waterfront, you can move to The Toronto Islands or The Beaches, which in summer turn into a beach Mecca with huge sandy beaches, green lawns, and acres of beach volleyball fields.

In general, Downtown Toronto resembles the more relaxed brother of New York's Manhattan. It has its own wall street and its own SoHo. The party streets are filled with tattooed people on bicycles in raybans and with yoga mats behind their backs. I once saw a homeless guy with a longboard. And the streets are full of colorful characters. People feel free and relaxed, enjoying life.

From spring to fall the cultural life boils. Many things happen in an open format on the streets, in parks and on the waterfront - for example, film screenings on screens installed over the water. Audiences are comfortably ensconced in pairs or in groups on the waterfront. Toronto has a serious relationship with movies in general. There are a lot of film productions here that work for Hollywood. Right on the streets you can come across a betmobile chase or Will Smith saving the world. Every September the Hollywood elite pulls up here for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival).

The myth that Canada is a hockey country is true, only to be corrected by the fact that apparently soon Canadian teams will consist of half of Chinese (local, of course). Toronto is home to the most legendary hockey club, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have 13 Stanley Cups. True, they won the last one in far 1967, but this does not prevent them from reaping the benefits of former glory, buying the most expensive players and filling stadiums. By the way, it costs about $100 to join the legend -- for that money, you can buy a ticket to stand behind the back rows at a regular game.

The Toronto Raptors basketball and Toronto Blue Jays baseball are also spelled out here. The clubs battle in the NHL, NBA and MLB with the U.S. pros, so Canada in sports is not just hockey and curling.

The marijuana situation in Toronto came as a surprise to me. The first time I saw people downtown smoking pot outside a bar without hiding, I was a little surprised. But when I saw the same cops next to them, I was seriously surprised.

Later it turned out that Ontario is just a little bit behind the global legalization of marijuana, and although the relevant laws have not yet been passed, in fact the use and possession of marijuana for personal use is not prosecuted.

Over time, I got used to the city quite well, began to feel it. But Toronto continues to open up to new sides-perhaps that's its most appealing feature.


Real patriots are forged here. How Canada Tamed the Ukrainian Diaspora.

The Ukrainian diaspora in Canada has long been known for its dominant nationalistic sentiments. Its representatives have been visiting their historic homeland since the late 1980s and like to teach Ukrainians the "right" way of life, language, culture and customs, allegedly lost during the years of "Soviet occupation. At the same time, they bring to Ukrainian political life the cults of Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevich, previously peculiar only to a marginal part of Ukrainian society.

Now about 300,000 Canadian citizens identify themselves as Ukrainians, and about 1 million more identify themselves as Canadians with partial Ukrainian ancestry. At the same time, the Russian Federation has the largest Ukrainian diaspora - more than 5 million people.

Unlike Russia, Canadian governments, especially those of the Liberal Party, have for decades pursued a policy of "taming" emigrants from Eastern Europe, focusing on ethnic Ukrainians, shaping a certain political type of "proper" Ukrainian.
In turn, for the Canadian government, the loyal diaspora became a pillar supporting foreign policy, NATO membership, as well as a tool to combat opponents both at home and on the international stage. In January 2021, a 64-page issue of Press for Conversion, the Coalition Against Arms Trade, was published in Canada, focusing on the process of nationalist attitudes within the Ukrainian diaspora and Ukrainian women.

A hundred years ago, most of the Ukrainian immigrants in Canada were more of a headache for the Canadian government, leftist "rebels" far removed from nationalism and sympathetic to Russia and the Soviet Union. They had emigrated for the most part from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The largest association of Ukrainians in Canada at this time was the Association of United Ukrainians of Canada, which worked closely with the Communist Party of Canada and many of the militant trade unions. In 1919 the Association was the organizer of a general strike in Winnipeg, which ended in street battles during which the police and army stormed the offices of the organization. The city of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, was then considered the informal center of the diaspora. Here, as well as in other cities a hundred years ago, the Association built "Ukrainian Workers' Houses" - cultural and social centers for migrant workers of Ukrainian (and not only) origin.

The Association of United Ukrainians of Canada still exists today, organizing May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Canada, courses of Ukrainian folk dances, holiday dinners with borsch and vareniki, debunking the mythology of the "Holodomor," and speaking out against Euromaidan, but now there are only a couple dozen people left from what was once a powerful organization.

One of the most recent examples of this Ukrainian association's opposition to Ukrainian nationalism in Canada was the 1985 publication of a paper by Canadian researcher and Quebec trade unionist Douglas Tottle, Fraud, Famine and Fascism: The Ukrainian Myth of Genocide from Hitler to Harvard.

The author, while acknowledging serious mistakes during collectivization in the Ukrainian SSR, wrote that the very concept of the "Holodomor" was created by Nazi propagandists who claimed that people in the Ukrainian SSR were dying of hunger to counteract pro-Soviet sentiment among Ukrainians abroad. The association also noted that the term "starvation" itself is most likely of nonUkrainian origin, but is consonant with the Slovak word "gladomor," which means famine in general.

The subsequent collapse of the USSR and the nationalist course of Ukraine practically knocked the ground out from under the feet of this part of the diaspora.

Since the late 1930s, as the authors of the Canadian magazine note, the Canadian government also began to "sift" migrants from Eastern Europe, rejecting some and welcoming others based on their ideological views.
"Before and during World War II, the Canadian government's firmly entrenched immigration policy was to keep out Jews and leftist refugees who were desperate to escape persecution by the Nazis and other fascist forces in Europe," the publication reports.

In 1940, the Canadian government banned the leftist Ukrainian Farmers' Association and formed the Congress of Ukrainians of Canada, an "umbrella structure for nationalist and religious Ukrainian organizations" to control the "foreign" population. From 1945, the composition of Ukrainian emigration also changed dramatically. Instead of peasants traveling from the poorest regions of Europe in search of work, North America is filled with former Nazis and collaborators.

Canada, which recently did not allow people persecuted in Europe, willingly allows the entry of 160,000 Nazi collaborators and former SS members who, naturally, begin to cooperate with the Nationalist Congress. A struggle immediately broke out between the two organizations (the Association and the Congress). In the context of the Cold War that followed, this inherently unequal competition eventually neutralized the Association and secured for the Congress the status of officially sanctioned representative of Ukrainians in Canada. And this did not happen without the help of the Canadian government.

In the 1950s there were regular clashes and fights between the two factions of Canadian Ukrainians in the streets of Canadian cities. The police usually only intervened if the right-wing nationalists began to be overpowered. Having lost the battle for the right to represent the Ukrainian people in Canada, the pro-Soviet part of the diaspora gradually assimilated, preferring not to emphasize its origin any longer.

In contrast to this association, nationalist associations of Ukrainians have always enjoyed the financial and political support of Canadian governments. Ukrainian and Baltic SS members, as well as members of the OUN, in 1946, with financial support from the United States, Great Britain, and West Germany, organized the "Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Peoples" (ABN), in which the leading role went to the members of the UUN.

The symbol of the NBU contained the same infamous Nazi symbol "wolfsangel" ("wolfhook") that is now used by the Ukrainian neo-Nazi National Guard Regiment "Azov.

After the creation of NATO, the official diaspora peoples of Eastern Europe in Canada actively joined the new global war, supporting the Canadian and U.S. governments in all wars. In 1981, the ABN Congress, organized by Oleg Romanishin of the League of Ukrainians of Canada, was held in Canada to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1941 proclamation of Ukraine's "independence" in alliance with Nazi Germany.

Mahmoud Khalili, one of the field commanders of Ahmad Shah Masoud, the Afghan Mujahideen who fought against the Soviets, was also present at the celebration of this event in Canada in 1981. In 1986, one of the leaders of the Nicaraguan contras, Mario Calero, spoke at a similar DEA event in Canada and negotiated cooperation. Together, the Ukrainian and Latvian SS veterans, the Afghan mujahideen and the Nicaraguan contras were traditionally referred to in the Canadian press as "freedom fighters".

"The Bandera faction of Ukrainian nationalists is still the strongest of the groups of Eastern European emigrants supported by the Canadian government. By the 1980s, the Banderites had long been a leading force in the struggle against socialists in their areas and in organizing support for Canadian, U.S., and NATO policies. These groups were dominated by those who welcomed the Nazis as liberators during World War II," writes Press for Conversion magazine.
Children's organizations were actively used to foster nationalism and Russophobic sentiments, as it is easier to indoctrinate a child with ideas. Thanks to Canada's generous funding, according to the Canadian magazine, Ukrainian nationalists can cherish their cultural traditions and beliefs and implant them into the minds of children and young people through their rituals.

An essential role in indoctrinating Ukrainian-Canadian children with nationalist and neo-Nazi ideas is played by the Plast, an analog of the Soviet Pioneers, but with the cult of Bandera and Shukhevych. Swedish-American historian and researcher of Ukrainian and Belarusian nationalism Per Anders Rudling noted in his 2013 work "The Honor They Deserve: The Legitimization of the SS Division "Galicia": "In 1943 "Plast" actively supported the creation of Waffen-SS "Galicia". And not only encouraged Ukrainian youth to volunteer for this Nazi formation, but also provided it with many officers."

In post-Soviet Ukraine, as the Swedish historian notes, Plast played an active role in educating children to glorify the OUN (b) and Waffen-SS Galicia. After the civil conflict in Ukraine began in 2014, Plast urged its units in the United States, Australia, Canada, Argentina, Poland, Germany and Ukraine to "join the fight."

The Canadian government spares no expense to fund the nationalist and pro-NATO part of the Ukrainian diaspora. Some of these funds are then sent by Congress to nationalist organizations in Ukraine, making Canada and the United States the promised land for many Ukrainians. Even the efforts of Ukrainian nationalists to tear down monuments to Lenin and other Soviet figures are not without financial incentives from Congress and indirectly from the Canadian government.

There is a backlash as well. A close-knit and well-organized diaspora helps the Liberal Party of Canada mobilize the electorate with the help of Congressional leaders and Greek Catholic priests, and suppresses dissenting Canadian leftist and anti-war organizations. In 1967, when French President de Gaulle called for the liberation of Quebec, liberal Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson enlisted the help of paramilitary Ukrainian nationalist organizations to suppress the French separatists.

Many of Plast's fosters and congressional organizations become Liberal Party leaders, such as Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign minister from 2013-2019, who played no small role in supporting the Euromaidan in Kiev. However, even 30 years ago, she tried to interfere in the elections in the USSR and, according to the Canadian edition, began to cooperate with George Soros.

"Freeland says she met with Soros in Soviet Ukraine and advised him on anti-communist dissident groups and individuals, indicating which ones deserved his funding. Happy to support his early attempts to influence Soviet policy, Freeland began a friendly working relationship with Soros that lasted for decades," the authors write.

The Canadian government generously funds festivals and other nationalist diaspora events from the federal budget, which raise money to help the Ukrainian Right Sector* and the Ukrainian Armed Forces to fight in the Donbass.

The example of the Ukrainian Euromaidan and the subsequent history of Ukrainian foreign policy, the war against Donbass, bans on the use of the Russian language, and decommunization would have been unlikely without the role played in these events by the nationalist part of the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada and the United States. In fact, thanks to generous funding, Canada has been able to link ethnicity and commitment to nationalist/neo-Nazi ideology, but only if it does not conflict with NATO interests.

Canada has so far won the years-long struggle for self-identification of Ukrainians by creating an image of the ideal Ukrainian that meets the foreign and domestic political desires of Canadian governments. This model was then extended to their historic homeland as well.