8 or 9 years ago we paid a visit to a couple in Toronto: ethnic Ukrainians, the husband- a college friend of my then husband. Before emigrating, they were quite well-to-do, by ex-Soviet standards; the wife never needed to work outside of home; I don’t think she had a profession; she was 15 years younger than her husband and led the life of pretty butterfly. The husband owned (illegal then) videogame business, never mind his college major in nuclear power stations. So, in 1990 they looked around and realized they need to run from the trap. The wife (let’s call her Slava) had an estranged father in Canada; he left the family when she was 2 and ended up in Ontario. She had no contact with him for 27 years. The husband (say, by the name Orest) bribed for her a tourist visa out, from Ukraine to Canada. She arrived in the middle of winter to some suburban RV park and introduced herself to her father: an unemployed drunk who immediately asked her for money; she had none. She also had no profession, no English, no friends, her visa was due to expire shortly.
On a bus ride to Toronto Slava talked to a fellow passenger who happened to be an ethnic Russian; she wrote down an address of a Ukrainian Unitarian church in the city. A priest there granted her a bed in a dorm (or whatever the monastery hostel is called) for 2 weeks; she found a job as a dishwasher in Russian restaurant.
Now, imagine the pay she received, even for 11-hrs work days. Peanuts. And out of this pay she managed to save for deposit for a room in the city. She lived there for 9 months, worked 3 menial jobs, including one unpaid – for the church. Economized on necessities so she could pay an immigration advocate – and then was able to get one of her twin daughters sent to her from Ukraine. Slava begged for her daughter’s acceptance into the private school run by the church; she could offer no money, only her labor as barter; her daughter got in- and studied Latin classics, English and Ukrainian. Then was her other daughter’s turn. Then she dragged in her husband – after 1.5 years apart!
They are Canadian citizens now, bought their own apartment in Toronto, Orest has two businesses (funeral homes), and their daughters are grown up.
When I saw them, 8 years ago, Slava was an elegant, happy, healthy, hospitable woman. “The Virgin was guiding me”, she told me casually; “I could have never figured it out by myself”.
[I recalled this story when talking to Laurie Kendrick, in the thread to her post here]