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Born in Atyrau, Kazakhstan |

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Marina’s family found itself in the midst of ethnic unrest, in what is now the country of Kazakhstan.  Her parents had had a long standing desire to leave with the hope of ensuring a better future for Marina and her older brother. They moved to Canada, first arriving in Montreal as refugees in the summer of 1994 and then moved in 1997 to North York with plans of securing employment and stability. This transition of leaving French-speaking Montreal was difficult for Marina, as once again she had to leave a group of friends, and learn yet another new language.

 “I absolutely hated Toronto… and gradually my hate turned to love.”

Now every corner of North York holds a precious memory. Toronto is where her family was able to escape poverty.

“Toronto is where my parents were able to finally stand on their feet and exhale.”

Toronto as Home

When they first moved to Toronto, Marina’s family rented an apartment right beside G. Ross Lord Park – a green space that will forever feel like home for her. She remembers walking through the park with her parents as a child, and during her teenage years holding barbecues here with friends. This is where she has gotten lost countless times, went on dates, and it is a place where she can come back to when she needs to centre herself.

“It seems like it is different every time I visit it, but maybe that’s just because I am different every time I visit.”

Connection with the Past

On her eighth birthday these earrings were given to Marina by her grandmother. They will always trigger the vivid memory of her grandmother, knowing Marina’s immediate family would be leaving her for a very long time, making Marina turn her head to the left and stare out at the mountains. It was the middle of the summer in Almaty, and she remembers seeing the ice on the top of the mountains. Her grandmother asked Marina to engrave that image into her memory saying that no matter where she would go, she would never see mountains so close and beautiful. Even though these are just small plastic heart earrings, Marina will forever cherish them.

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