It was an unusually warm weather day for the end of October when I met Yulia for the first time. We got to know each other a little over salmon tartare at the busy food court at a shopping centre in Montreal. Yulia, who is twenty-seven, is a war refugee; she fled Ukraine in April of 2022 once the bombardment started to get closer and closer to her hometown, Vinnitsya, a city in west-central Ukraine. She tells me she is one of the lucky ones.
Everything seems surreal when she talks about her friends injured by rockets and those who perished in the fighting. Her eyes are full of sadness, she pauses often while she speaks. Yulia tells me that she often feels guilty that she is able to rebuild her life while others are literally fighting for their lives back home. Her parents are still in Ukraine and they have asked her not to come back for now.
Yulia works in the accounting department of a construction company and soon will take French lessons. She finds the rhythm of life to be much faster in Montreal and that people have less time to just live as everything is planned. We agree to meet on the weekend at her place that she shares with another Ukrainian refugee. Yulia gives me a beautiful warm smile as she waves goodbye.