KENSINGTON – Growing up in Ukraine, Dmytro Ponomarov says he was afraid for his safety.
“Aggression was something you experienced in almost every aspect of your life. Besides someone’s parents, and only to the best of their ability, there is no one who can really protect you. So, when I was in Grade 5 I learned how to box. I was a four-time Ukrainian national champion.”
Years later, as an adult who was starting a family, Ponomarov wasn’t going to let his kids feel the same way.
In 2014, Ponomarov watched the news footage of people being shot by snipers in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. He said it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and which prompted him to began the immigration process for his wife, Olene, infant son and expectant child.
“Through my teenage years, I always considered myself different and wanted to move or travel to Europe or North America,” explained the now 32-year-old.
The family lived in the central part of Ukraine in Vinnitsa, which had a population of about 400,000 when he decided to come to Canada.
In 2015, he continued the process. In October, he took the International English Language Testing System exam and had an overall score of 7.0. Around the same time, his wife gave birth to their second child, a daughter.
“When she was born I was 110 per cent certain that we were doing the right thing.”
Ponomarov began searching through different Canadian immigration streams and came across P.E.I.’s express entry stream.
“I submitted our documents and in about two weeks we got a response from P.E.I.’s immigration officer, which granted us nomination to apply.
“In January 2016, we submitted our documents for federal consideration. Five months later we had our visa interview in Kiev and then on Sept. 24, we arrived in Canada.”
It’s a moment, he says, he’ll always remember.
“Everything was so clean,” he recalled with a laugh. “Everyone looked so happy. I didn’t feel like there was any tension or danger and everyone was so friendly. It was a completely different society from what we were used to. It was so happy to be in this modern, advanced world where social relationships were at such a level that people could be whoever they wanted to be.”
Before coming to Canada, Ponomarov worked as a service technician. Five months into living as an Islander, he was hired at Eastlink.
“It was my dream job opportunity to be able to stay in the field I had been working in for seven years in Ukraine.”
Olena is also enjoying the Island. Since learning English, she applied to study accounting technology at Holland College, he said.
“It makes me so happy to see her take part in all possible activities to make herself independent and figure out the life she wants. And the way they taught English really inspired her to continuing studying. It’s completely different than the way we are taught in Ukraine.”
It’s given the family new hope for what their life, children’s lives and future generations could be.
“I feel so lucky about everything. We are building the lives we want to have, not one we’re forced to have. Our children are the best part to all of this. We see how they are growing, speaking English and Russian and are in such a great environment. Tells me we made the right decision by coming to Canada.”