Natalia Noble was born to a Russian mother and a Ukrainian Father. Having lived in Ukraine most of her life, she considers herself primarily, a Ukrainian but she also had deep roots in Russia. She thought of Russian as her mother tongue. Like many other people she knew, she loved everything Russian. Common beliefs, traditions, customs made for a strong bond. She herself loved the Russian language, music, culture, and arts. As a child she would spend her summer vacations in Russia at her grandmother’s beautiful house in the city of Voronezh in South Western part of the country. That is when she would spend time with her mom’s extended Russian family. She grew up to take Russian Literature and language at College in Kyiv, Ukraine and finished a Masters and pursued doctoral studies in the subject.
When she was in her twenties, she found out that her grandmother’s sister(who didn’t have children of her own) willed an apartment for her close to Grandma’s home. “That was a time I could have made a choice to live in Russia but Ukraine was home for me”. Says Noble. “I sold the apartment and bought one in Kyiv. That was my last visit to Russia, but I held on to my love of Russian Literature not only through college and university but also maintaining an extensive library of books at my apartment in Kyiv”.
All of that love and passion is destroyed now. “Since the war started, I don’t even like hearingthe sound of Russian language. Russia stopped being a peaceful neighbor a long time ago and that changed my feelings towards that part of my heritage” says Noble. When Russia took over Crimea in 2014 things started to become strained for her mother who lived in Ukraine and her family who lived in Russia. Conversations became harder and it has come to a point where her mom and her uncle don’t even talk to each other anymore. “It is way too difficult.” Acc to Noble, people are now shunning even Russian artists and composers. The war has made people very intolerant of everything.
46 year old Natalia arrived in Canada on June 14 th ,2022. She was living in Lviv in WesternUkraine with her Ukrainian Canadian husband and her 11-year-old younger son, when Russia once again invaded Ukraine in early 2022. “Lviv was a beautiful intriguing city with a lot of history. It was a tourist destination close to the border of Poland and considered relatively safe. So, a lot of Eastern Ukrainians came to Lviv hiding from the war. A city with a unique beauty became full of people on streets with suitcases, people slept in schools, at railway stations hiding from the war” says Noble. Her family came too. Her small apartment became home to her parents, her brother’s family and her own family. People slept wherever they could find some room in the apartment. “We lived close to a military base and sirens would go up all the time. I will remember the sounds of those sirens all my life”. Says Noble. “We were asked to have all our documents in one bag and had to go to shelter in an underground parking lot whenever the sirens rang. Sometimes we didn’t want to do that as it was cold and we would just go stand in the hallways of the apartment building to be safer”.
Natalia’s husband applied for a visa for her and her younger son and last spring, they finally got a call to get their biometrics done in Poland. It took them 3 months of living in 5 different places in Poland before they could finally make their journey to their safe haven in Canada. Her 23 year old son was not allowed to leave Ukraine and is still there. Her parents also went back to Kyiv, once she left home. “They are older and don’t speak English and it will be very hard for them to come out on their own. There are no direct routes. They will have to take two trains and two buses to Warsaw from where they will have one other stopover in a European country before they fly to Canada” says Noble. Sometimes she wishes she could go to the border of Poland and bring them back.
Although Natalia is happy to be safely making a new life in Abbotsford, Canada, her memories are scarred. “To be honest, I will never be the same again. I have lots of roots in Russia, but those attachments are dead now. Since being in Canada, I have declined well-paying jobs to teach Russian. I love my country, Ukraine. We were peaceful people and never thought of Russia as our enemy. When they took over Crimea, we were all taken by surprise but we thought it would be contained there. We didn’t fight hard at that time but perhaps we should have. It is this latest war that has killed all my sentiment towards Russia. I didn’t expect to feel this way but my love has turned to hate now. I want Ukraine to fight until we get every inch of our land back from Russia and yes it will cost us lives but we are way beyond a peaceful
agreement now. It can only change if there is a regime change in Russia. Until then it is a battle worth fighting for”.