by Stephanie Staples | photo by Janis Jean Photography –
Where to start when you meet a women that has so much to offer and gives and gives and gives with her full, happy heart and a smile on her face?
Allow me to introduce you to Vasilina Streltsov; she is a relative newcomer to the Island but don’t let that fool you – she has put her mark on it with a capital L (for Lina, as she likes to be called) in understated but important ways since she arrived.
A happy accident on a dating app brought her to the Peninsula, but when she landed here it was so much like her homeland, Ukraine, that she felt at home right away. Love, a dog, mountains and Island life have made her a permanent resident!
Spending time in Lina’s company, you can’t walk away the same person you were – you will be better (and you will likely leave with some homemade pierogis!).
Lina, you have twice moved to a new country, with unfamiliar languages, customs, people, food etc. How have you navigated those journeys and how has that helped you coming to the Island?
Moving to another country is not easy but in return, you get an invaluable experience and an excellent opportunity to realize your potential!
Fortunately, it is human nature to forget difficulties and recall the good moments; based on my experience, I can say that through these big, life-changing moves I learned new things quickly and realized the dream I cherished from an early age – immersing into new cultures by learning languages and exploring traditions, art, literature and cuisine.
It is essential to be open to everything and believe that all the difficulties will turn into a well-lived life.
You and your family narrowly escaped a terrorist attack in Egypt, I can only imagine that you are never the same after you experience something like that. How did that change you?
Life events affect our consciousness; it’s up to us to choose what lessons we draw. Traumatic events may be invaluable too.
The birthday of my youngest son Alex, Friday, October 8, 2004 is a day my family will remember for a lifetime.
A car bomber drove into the lobby of the Hilton hotel in Taba (a popular vacation town in Sinai just yards from the border with Israel), where we were staying to celebrate my son’s birthday. As a result of the blast 30 people were killed and many more were injured. We were lucky to have just gone outside, and escaped the explosion. The most important gift for my son and my family was understanding that life is the most valuable thing to cherish.
For two years after the events, I experienced strong anxiety fearing another attack.
Many years have passed and the war in Ukraine brought back the same memories. My family and friends live in unending danger in Ukraine; my country is under constant attack. I worry about how long it will take for the people of Ukraine to forget about the suffering they experienced from rocket explosions and more.
They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; we pray for life and hope for a brighter future!
With nine years of post-secondary musical education behind you, you have conducted countless award-winning choirs and been a part of some amazing stories. Can you share a couple of highlights of how music has influenced your world?
I have had many choirs throughout my musical career. One of the memorable projects that I am proud of is the creation of a children’s choir in Israel in a boarding school for children who had no parents or were from low-income families.
The choir participated in charity events and the money went to the fund for further education of the students of this boarding school.
In one such charity event, held by the American Embassy in Israel, the choir sang with a famous Israeli singer. Ten years later, in Canada, a children’s choir that I created sang with the same singer at the Negev Gala charity concert. Music fills me with joy and watching others get joy from it is even better!
You are from Ukraine and have been instrumental in bringing the Island community together to support the people of Ukraine as the horrific war rages on. Tell us about your activities and what you want the rest of us to know and do during this time?
I am a choir director of the Kalyna Ukrainian Choir, based here in Victoria. The “Kalyna” is a symbol of Ukraine and has been for hundreds of years. “Kalyna” is the red berry of the plant Viburnum Opulus.
We are deeply saddened by the war that are taking place in Ukraine. Everyone now has their own weapon and for us this weapon is a music. The cultural front should work powerfully.
From the very beginning of the war in Ukraine, the choir participated in the rallies against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
We sing the Ukrainian songs and in this way we introduce Canadian people to the culture of the Ukrainian people. We participated in the fundraising events as well to support Ukraine.
It is our job, together, to keep people informed as the war continues and the people in Ukraine are dying.
Only together we can to support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in their fight for a peaceful existence.
Your attitude of optimism, positivity and simplicity permeates all that you do – I wish those qualities were contagious but since they are not, how do you nurture them?
When something happens that makes me feel disappointment, I try to look at the situation differently, change my perspective and accept it as part of my life. I know it is temporary.
I am a lucky person that I have many sources from which I draw positive emotions: my family, my friends, love, music, my job, students, nature, the world that surrounds me.
In my opinion, for every person there are many ways to be more positive in your life, even when you’re experiencing sadness, anger, or challenges. Just waking up in the morning and being grateful for the fact that many new opportunities are opened up for you – that is powerful!