Born in Skopje, Macedonia |
Emigrating to the United States in 2001 to avoid the threat of war, Vera’s family’s experience as one of few foreign families in a suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was difficult. There was a desire to seek a more welcoming environment and this set them on a path to Toronto. Vera says she has “nomadic tendencies” and before Toronto she lived in Argentina and Thailand.
“I have found strange comfort in accepting Toronto as a home, whatever that means.”
She feels at ease perhaps for the first time since their emigration twelve years ago; no longer the “alien” “farang” or “gringa” but “just another Torontonian.” As explained by Vera:
“Everyone (or perhaps no one) here is a Torontonian, regardless of whether they were born here, how long they have lived here, or how long they plan to stay. No one stands out in the crowd; no one screams “I don’t belong here” through their skin colour, facial features, hair style, choice of clothing etc. There is something strange and wonderful at the same time about that notion of uncontested belonging.”
Vera recently finished a Masters in Political Science at the University of Toronto and is currently working as a Project Assistant at the STEPS Initiative, a non-profit connects people to public spaces through art. Vera also works as a Community Engagement Coordinator at the PATCH project, a STEPS’ sister organization that installs artwork on construction hoarding sites across Toronto.
Toronto as Home
As an urbanist, Vera feels like she belongs to Toronto through its streetscapes.
“I enjoy the contrasts of the city from the shiny to the grimy.”
She wanted a backdrop of a local store on Toronto’s west side, near Dufferin Street. The store she chose, Ralph’s Hardware, has an eclectic window front full of lighting fixtures, which makes her nostalgic for the warm, dusty mom-and-pop shops back home, including her father’s lighting design store in Macedonia. Vera likes that the neighbourhoods of Toronto feel local, despite being located within such a large metropolis.
Connection with the Past
Macedonia is known for its pottery and wool weaving, featuring traditional designs, which often constitute the décor of a Macedonian home. The piece Vera has chosen belongs to her parents. It is a naturally-dyed wool table covering that is over seventy years old, and hand made using a traditional loom. This fabric is a little reminder of the culture and heritage Macedonians like her have left behind.