Monday, October 15, 2007

Ella, Ella Eh...

I ran into this old women Ella the other day in the Zesty Mart by my apartment. I had first met her on the train from Kiev to Odessa back in ’04. Ten of us were crammed into a small sleeper compartment drinking lemon pepper vodka and chewing raw pig fat called salo. In that tiny compartment we had Ukrainian carolers stop by our cart and sing to us and we Canadians returned the favour, except we didn’t really have any national anthems aside from our well…national anthem, and the Stompin’ Tom Conners Hockey Game.

Ella lives in Winnipeg and it was a total fluke that I ran into her. She was in town for a UN Peacekeeping Security of the Individual training course, and I joined her for tea in her hotel room. As a child she was exiled from her native Ukraine to Tajikistan for being a Mennonite. There she grew up a slave picking cotton and her whole family starved to death. She managed to survive and was industrious enough to go to college, which was rare because those in the refugee camps were considered lesser humans and enemies of the state. But none the less she was able to earn her masters and get a job in a hospital.

She was granted provisional freedom, and after living in exile for 30 years in Tajikistan she left for Winnipeg on the condition that she would never return to Ukraine. So I was very excited to be with her as she monitored her country of births’ transition to democracy. I can go on and on about her views on being bought and sold in the forced labour camps in central Asia or being bought and sold by pharmaceutical companies in Canada with wave after wave of corporate takeovers.

In any event she is one of the most amazing women I ever met, and I thank God that I ran out of spaghetti sauce and had to run to Zesty Mart.


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