“Rules for happiness: something to do,

someone to love, something to hope for.” 
― Immanuel Kant     

She was challenging herself again, “Can I do it? Maybe I can do it. I think I can do it. Damn, I must do it! …It is never too late to pursue your passion, hah?”

It seemed like her brain was taking a shower of arguable thoughts, mudding calm waters of confidence and pulling the trigger of her ambition, “Why is it that I’m always looking for a challenge? Why?”

Working freelance with unstable income, she’s been hardly making ends meet, especially in summer. Svitlana used to teach English at high school in the town she lived in, as well as in Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine), even abroad, in Poland. Besides, her professional experience was gained working in other fields, often as an English/Ukrainian interpreter, in particular, when after her husband’s death, she moved to Kyiv together with her teenage daughter, and spent a few years there, rising to the challenge of a big city life. 

Rarely would she have a chance for interpreter job since she came back to the suburban area in Western Ukraine. Leaving Poland for love, Lana (as some would call her), a woman in her late forties, put her trust in her beloved, in the opportunity to have a happy family again. Was it irrational? Depends. No doubt everyone would like to have their cup being full. Imagine if it was, yet, the drink might not belong to the favorites of yours.  Admittedly, you’d satisfy your thirst; Even so, it wouldn’t be enough to make you happy.

“Do you have a job in Canada?” asked Joanna, (the director of Lodz School of Fashion, Cosmetology and Hairdressing – Anagra, Poland), with a dash of mockery and irritation when Lana approached her requesting an Employment Letter, which was required so that she could apply for Visitor Visa to Canada. (May 2017). 

“No, I’m not going there for work. To put it briefly, my spouse is a Canadian citizen who is inviting me to visit him this summer. Despite the fact that he had been to Ukraine a number of times, including our marriage in June 2014, I have never been to Canada yet,” replied Svitlana.

In fact, their relationship with Greg had already been to the hell and back by 2017, because of the distance, borders (Ukrainians cannot visit Canada without visa, while Canadians are welcome to Ukraine without one), difficult lung surgery of Lana’s in the fall of 2014, which was absolutely unexpected, and, consequently, postponed applying for immigration to Canada together with her daughter, (while Svitlana’s older child, her son, would still have to stay in Ukraine).  Indeed, they planned immigration first, and Gregory, as a sponsor, was supposed to apply by post from Canada, and he did so. (They thought) Only after about two years of waiting in frustration and despair, did they eventually find out that owing to a weird mistake during posting, the package had never left the local post office.  Anyway, they decided to try Visitor Visa that time, for it was insane to wait years till the next meeting again.

Apparently, the idea that their English Teacher from Ukraine might be granted a visa to Canada didn’t make the private Fashion School management happy. Being notorious for a long history of unfair dismissals of their employees, as soon as a debatable situation between Svitlana and one of her students occurred, they blamed the teacher without a single talk about the case, terminated the working contract and fired her the next day, literary. It happened a couple of days after she had collected her Employment Letter.  Obviously, it didn’t take the bosses long (both were women) to choose the group of humans they belonged to: between the beautiful and the intelligent they picked the first.

“Why did you tell Joanna about your Canadian spouse?  Everyone was shocked to hear the news of your sudden dismissal!” said a Polish teacher, Lana’s colleague, the day she was leaving for good. “Were I you, I would tell anything but the truth. Unfortunately, people like Joanna and Pani Prezes (Mrs. President) are not like the majority of the Poles. These two are mean and jealous. I’m so sorry. What’cha gonna do now? May I somehow help you?”

Certainly, that colleague of hers, like many other Poles she had met in Lodz were very nice people, including most of Anagra’s students. Svitlana would always smile recalling one of them, Mateusz, a bonafide Louis Vuitton fan. (She knew about his passion for the brand since it came out during a class discussion, and she helped him to express himself). It took her long before she stopped calling him Tadeusz (there were so many new names to remember, written in Polish). Even so, the boy was just laughing every next time it happened again, and never missed an extra chance to say “Dzień dobryPani!” (Good Day, Ms!).

Once after the classes, being really excited by the news, one of the teachers shared with Lana the following,

“Hey, I must tell you something. Tadeusz has just told me that you are the best teacher he had ever met, and he’s just in love with you. That’s awesome!”

That is to say, having been already fired, Svitlana was strolling along the sidewalk of the full of hustle and bustle Piotrkowska Street, one of the major tourist attractions of Lodz, where most of the city events, matches or celebrations take place. After hours of shopping for bargains with the aim of buying presents for her family, the woman was carrying a few bags, casually roaming in her sad, deep thoughts. Suddenly, she heard someone crying out to her in English from the opposite side of the street,

“Heeey! Hello!”

Svitlana turned around and spotted a gang of young people dining outside the restaurant on the other side of Piotrowska Street. There was only a smattering of men among them. The one of the guys stood up waving at her, “Hey! Hello!  Dzień dobryPani!” (Good Day, Ms!)”

It was Tadeusz, a 20-year-old fan of Louis Vuitton from Fashion School, who was bold enough to ignore the gang’s opinion so that he could stand out from the crowd and salute the teacher he respected. What a nice gesture! Of course, Lana waved him back with a big happy smile lightning her face.

By the way, from her personal correspondence with one of the ex-colleagues Svitlana learned afterwards that the teachers she had got on with were either fired or left the school themselves. Scarcely any praise did deserve the ladies in charge.

It was September 2019 behind her window, and she was challenging herself with something big and smashing. Hard as she had tried to be down to earth, her private tutoring was not enough to feed her well or meet the needs of a weirdo in her head, jonesing to follow the current of creativity. Indeed, Lana had been in dire straits. Even so, she had made a firm decision not to swing out her English tutor practice. Moreover, she would rather refuse any new potential students who were calling with the aim of having private English classes; she needed time for her new career development.

Elusive though her skills were, Svitlana had always been aware of them, yet, she had just started doing it for a living. Few people knew about her goals, though. They say a picture is worth 1000 words. However, only a couple were able to assess the things they had been shown. Clearly, most Ukrainians wouldn’t be able to compare notes of her activity, even if they did so, it would still sound implausible for them to succeed in the field she was longing for, especially for a Ukrainian.  That’s why she might have her doubts too.

The view outside her window hadn’t changed since the time she came back from Poland in 2017. In a sense, you need to trust that where you are taken it’s where you need to go. However, it might make a poor excuse for the events of the summer 2017. In fact, Svitlana had received her husband’s Invitation Letter, collected all required documents (including a new Employment Letter from the company she got employed in Ukraine), and, finally, applied to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for Visitor Visa to Canada. Surprisingly, it took the authority only seven days, including the weekend, to come up with their decision on the possibility of the mature couple to meet in Canada; and the Visa Officer concluded:

” … I am refusing your application…. You have not satisfied me that you would leave Canada at the end of your stay as a temporary resident. In reaching this decision, I considered several factors, including: travel history, purpose of visit, current employment situation, personal assets and financial status…”

In other words, the Visa Officer decided that an ordinary Canadian, for example a truck diesel mechanic like Greg, is not authorized to invite his spouse to visit him in case she is an ordinary Ukrainian.

Needless to say, both of them were struck dumb when they had read the black message on the white background. Being a heartbeat away from a such a tangible result of the visa application purpose, the two of them appeared facing the abyss, the bottomless ocean splitting the plots of land they belonged to. How pathetic the lovers looked in the spotlight of the authority!

“My complaint: My wife of 3 years has been rejected a visa to Canada. I feel our application wasn’t looked at properly. It was processed very quickly without any questions being asked. As a Canadian I am supposed to be innocent till proven guilty, yet, this process has found us guilty. She has travelled & worked abroad always returning to Ukraine (travel history). It seems as if my letter of invitation wasn’t looked at as I’m funding her trip (this covers: personal assets and financial status). She wants to meet my family and friends (according to CIC an acceptable Purpose of visit). I feel misled to believe I live in free country that is welcoming to visitors. All this information is in the application, “wrote Gregory in his letter to the Immigration Section of the Embassy of Canada in Ukraine.

“…. The reasons for refusal are outlined on the refusal letter. Once a decision is made, the file is closed…,” stated the response message. “Rather, … he or she may submit a new application and pay new processing fee… However, if the applicant’s personal situation has not substantively changed since the last application, there is little reason to expect a different decision.”

If the applicant’s personal situation has not substantively changed?  Which way was it supposed to change for a woman of 47 and man of 56, married to each other? Substantively? Like what? How cynic it sounds!

White lie might have been sitting pretty on white background of the text. Indeed, the message had been just another finished piece of writing in formal style, with certain combination of the words, within word limit, fixed by far. There must have been a human, though, who let it happen; a Visa Officer was gentleman’s or lady’s name. It would be interesting to know if they are married, their age; whatever; done.  It was so crystal clear that without being loaded, the chances of an applicant from Ukraine, to be granted a Visa to Canada were equal one’s chances to win playing Russian roulette. What a potentially deadly game! 

First, Lana really broke down, while Greg tried to stay balanced (or did his best to hide how uptight he was during their Skype talks). Nonetheless, after a few days of contemplation, they pulled themselves together, bit a bullet and were going to apply again; even though they both realized that Svitlana’s chances were slim to none.

Scarcely anything could have indicated the unexpected twist, when suddenly their communication stopped dead. One day Svitlana’s message crashed into the wall of silence, built somewhere on the other side of the Atlantic. The echo of her texts and calls had never bounced back, without any explanation, any spoken reason, nothing. No matter how hard she tried to wrap her head around what had really happened, she couldn’t grasp it. At least she learned from one of relatives of Greg’s that he did go on working, at least that he’s alive.

Okay, whatever reason caused the silent treatment of Lana by her spouse, time was passing by, with Greg (probably out of sheer perversity or else) insisting on the straw dog philosophy. Meaning, the classic is always up to date, as long the Canadian guy behaved like the haughty countess Diana from The Dog in the Manger or The Gardene’s Dog by Lope de Vega who rejects her numerous aristocratic suitors and falls in love with a bright but poor young man Teodoro, her secretary, even though he is the lover of her maid. Diana neither let the couple marry, nor marries her handsome secretary herself. Lope de Vega’s play has a happy ending, though.

Anyway, since February 2019 Svitlana had been really writing (in English), and learning more and more about fancy craft. Once on 12 July she got a message from a British literary magazine concerning her decision to withdraw the poem which was sent to them quite long ago; however, she had never had a message back with confirmation of the fact of its reception. The message from the Poetry Editor was the following,

“Svetlana,

Thanks for the message, my fault for not replying sooner. I’d like to accept this – can you send me a bio?

Best…”

“What? They want to publish me? Oh, my!” her joy had hardly any limits.

Only after a while, did she pay attention to a small detail that the happy news arrived on 12 July. (It was the date she met her late husband for the first time in 1989. Thus, every year they somehow celebrated it when Arthur was alive, whereas after his sudden death in 2010, she would visit his grave to light a candle in the memory of love they had shared for over twenty years together.)

Fall 2019

Both of Svitlana’s children and even her daughter-in-law were fluent in English, which is not common for anybody from Eastern Europe. Hence, they could be the only people she might ask for opinion about some of her writing. Since her son (28), MD, would be usually very busy at work (often as an English-speaking medical writer), with anything like that she would rather call her younger child. Lana’s daughter (20) lived in Kyiv doing the Master of Laws. Besides, the smart girl had been already working as a Lawyer, part time, where apart from other duties she was responsible for legal translation into English. Seeing her literary skills, her company provided for a copywriting course for their young employee.

“Hey mom, the presenter said that so many people strive to become a writer, which is absurd, as having writing skills is not enough. It’s not the same,” commented after another workshop Lana’s daughter.

“Up to a point, this is true but every case is different. If something makes you happy, why should you kill your inner call? In other words, birds are given wings to fly. Not every bird can sour, okay?” said Svitlana, and thought, “Can I?”

That evening she was home alone, as usual. Her daughter’s comment (or it was a hint) had been loosening the knot of the writing woman’s confidence.  She came up to the bookcase with a glass door. There were a few photos of the family who passed away, her father and mother, and, of course, Arthur(smiling), the late husband. All of them were silent witnesses of her doubts.

“My dear, give me a sign, please. Tell me whether I should finally follow my creative pursuit,” no matter how insane it might have sound, she said it loud.

Having her tea, Svitlana was watching the evening news online. When suddenly her mobile gave a short, high-pitched ringing sound – incoming message on WhatsApp. She checked, and couldn’t help laughing at the pun image she had been sent; it was somehow sexist, true, though so hilarious,

“OMG!” At first, she used to get annoyed, and even angry with pics like that.

“Gosh! It’s been about two years since he sent an invite to join his group of friends online,” she thought.

Her friend would do his best to justify the subject of his humor, somehow changed his style of messaging…. if only just a bit. What really attracted Lana in this unusual friend of hers was his intelligence, indeed. Having travelled the world, he had been well-versed in most things, highly-educated, curious, polite, creative and funny, though often too direct in certain things. However, being direct is not so bad; it all depends. She gave the funny pun another glance, and said to herself, amused,

“How come? But I deleted you from FB friends a month ago! Did you actually notice?” And thought, “Seems, this perfect sense of humor guy doesn’t mind being out of my FB list as long as he can text or call me on WhatsApp.”

Certainly, he had started a new relationship. Even so, his puns would go on hitting her WhatsApp occasionally as if nothing had changed. She didn’t buy it. Thus, unfriended him on her FB. It had been silent for a while until that night.

Responding to the image just received and thinking of the photos had been posted earlier on his FB (with his new charming lady), Lana texted back,

“Getting married? Nice. Don’t get anxious, man. Lol”

“Ha ha funny…., “incoming message pinged. The man who had been married once would always joke and skip the topic of commitment.

Surprisingly, there had always been the feeling that their mind was surfing the same wave, easy to talk to, fun to understand, despite obvious cultural differences since they lived on different continents. He was hilariously proud to be single, although, admitted that he would enjoy a woman’s company. In case Lana was willing, he mentioned the possibility to visit him, or travel together. The previous summer the enthusiastic traveler was keen to come to Ukraine, even though she had never invited him. Actually, he could have done so, yet, Svitlana’s mother had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, and, sadly, passed away in September the same year. The FB friend was there with his supportive messages from time to time. This way or that way, they became friends online. Eventually, Lana told him about her weird marriage (only in very general features).

“How do you still feel about him? Can’t you declare the marriage null and void because he left? …Sweetheart, go to the court and get advice…You must go there and insist!!!!! Maybe he got married illegally again. …you are toooo nice. …I do care; you don’t listen to me,” he said.

Nope, she didn’t listen to him, however, Svitlana’s thoughts about Greg were so controversial. He used to be her love and caused her pain; he welded a mysterious black hole in the chain of her life. Would she come out of its gravitation?  Meanwhile, she would care about him less and less.

“Why are you texting me? Bored?” she typed.

“Saying hello,”

“Lol…in a very unusual way…”

“Lol how so”

“Read your messages…rewind Lol…where’s hello there?”

Lol hello. O bout ….? he said again what did embarrass her but him.

“Who do you think you are? So bold?” she though.

“You must be in love”, she gave a shot. That moment, her inner voice was telling her in Morse code: he is into you, definitely, say it! 

“Why,” he said.

“Lol…because…ask yourself why…. I guess because…. irresistible,” she meant herself, but didn’t dare to make herself understood clearly, of course. She had said enough.

He laughed and gave some other reason …denying being in love with his girlfriend.

“Nope,” said Lana.

“What then,” he asked.

“You didn’t get me…anyway…you will somehow…Enjoy your weekend,” and saying this she rushed to quit the chat.

“What u up to,” suddenly, he stopped her.

“Hmm…” she thought, replying, “Writing a lot. It will make me or break me…soon.”

“U will be made,” upcoming message said.

“Ooo…thanks…” that was so nice to hear, Svitlana even boasted that her poem had been promised to be published soon.

“Wow u gonna be famous,” he said. “Famous and sexy”

“You are funny…but thanks))),” she said, and left the chat.

In no way had that weird, although, pleasant chat been planned. Svitlana went to bed excited so that she would wake up ‘next day and having coffee realize: not only had she got so shocking revelation messages to tell her friend, but also he was like a wire to transfer hers…For real! What unbelievable news!  Whatever sceptics might suggest, the time will show; whereas optimists must say,

“If nothing good is happening, still, make it out, and you’ll see!”

Occurred, Svitlana’s destiny was walking solo; whatever, she was inspired to improvise.

The end

Svitlana (Lana) M. ‘Rochel (@lanam.rochel) is a writer, poet and lyricist who was first published in BFS Horizons #10 in 2019. With years of experience in teaching English and interpreting, the author is developing her career in creative writing. Lana writes creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry, song lyrics, and children’s. Her thoughts define the gamut of genres she writes. Always keen to share her artistic mind, terrific ideas, and a sense of humor with her readers. Apart from pencraft, the author is into many kinds of art, especially music, dancing, cinema and theatre. She admires art, photography, and architecture.

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