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Born in Kaliningrad, Russia |

Elena arrived in Toronto at the age of 21 to study Comparative Literature and Communications. She calls leaving Israel with her Mother to move to Canada the “second big move” in her life – the first being when she left Russia. Just prior to her leaving, her university cafeteria had exploded, and then there was another explosion at a market where she used to go get groceries. She knew something had to change. Elena argues that “Toronto is phenomenally underrated.” Even though it “doesn’t quite have a rally cry quite like ‘I love New York’, she says that in Toronto she doesn’t feel pressure to ‘fit in’. Here she has a husband and a daughter and she works in Digital Communications.

“Toronto has been good to me.”

Toronto as Home

Elena stands in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s (AGO) Galleria Italia. It is “beautiful, open space, so uplifting and bright” celebrating the Italian community that helped renovate the AGO.  It reminds Elena of being at an airport, of the possibility of adventure and transition. According to Elena most people visiting AGO don’t even know this space is there.

“Like everything that’s best about this city, it is somewhat hidden under the surface of things.”

She finds Galleria Italia to be an inspiring space that reminds her of how the opportunities in life are truly unlimited. Elena has a family membership at the AGO and is thankful to have access a beautiful space that has an array of art exhibits as well as great food and coffee.

Connection with the Past

Elena is wearing a traditional Pavlovo Posad shawl all babushkas in Russia wear.  This type of shawl has been manufactured there for hundreds of years and is considered to be one of the symbols of Russia. She says she loves wearing it out of context, here in Toronto, where people see it as “just a nice scarf,” and not representing anything. In Russia or the Ukraine she would be making a statement by wearing one, because it is older women that traditionally wear such shawls, and their traditional values are very strong. Here she can wear it and not be judged in quite the same way and she says that it therefore feels “liberating”.

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