Skip to the main content

My Mother and I: Our Journey


I go by Charisma Grace, but my official name is Genieve Walker.
My full name is Olena Stepanova.
My name is Joelle Buchanan.
My name is Kateryna Stepanova.
Omaira Eva Ospino Cárdenas.
Yuminary Bryson. I normally go by Yumi.
I was born in U.S.S.R., so Soviet Union.
I was born in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
I was born in Barquisimeto.
I was also born in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
I was born in Ukraine.
I was born in Caracas, in Venezuela.

Screen Text

My Mother and I: Our Journey

An oral history research collaboration between The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 and The Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax.


Omaira Ospino, Venezuela:
I spent 25 years working in the oil industry in Venezuela. And I decided to retire because I have a beautiful project to move here to Canada, because my daughter was already here. I thought that coming as a family was the right thing to do.

Olena Stepanova, USSR/Ukraine:
When I graduated from university, I had my daughter. And before I move to Canada I work in accounting almost 12 years. So, I have a big background in my home country.

Charisma Grace, Jamaica:
And I was young, and I'm—I was, okay, I need to find something that—I need a career. I need to have something. I need a skill. And I decided on nursing, you know, because after I had Joelle, at that time she— she was a baby. She was probably about two. So, and the nurse was so good to me, you know. She was a midwife and she treated me so well. And I said, "Well, that is something that I see myself doing, you know. I could be that nurse, I could be that person."

Olena Stepanova:
Halifax is a big city and, more opportunity, more, activity for kids. The most important for us was my daughter get university here. So it was one reason why we moved to Nova Scotia.

Omaira Ospino:
In Latin America we are, of course, very family oriented. Childrens, even growing, older, they live with parents until they get married. So when we moved here in my mind was, for instance, that my daughter was coming to live with me, and we were again a big family like we were before she moved to Canada. Well, my first—in our first conversation with her, she said to us, "Well, no. I have my own apartment I am living alone. Why I'm going to be moving back with you?" "Okay," I said. "Well, that's true, but don't move too far, okay."

Charisma Grace:
I knew in the depths of my heart that it was a sacrifice, that I had to stick with it, you know. I had to um— I had to ground myself, you know, pull my sleeves back and just ground myself and remind myself of what— of why I was here, you know, daily, because every day I wanted to go home. And you know, so it was just—I knew that I had to—I had a purpose here, but I also was just being a—throwing a tantrum every day. And recognizing that it's okay to feel this way, to miss your child. Who wouldn't? To miss your mom and all these things, but I can't just up and go. It seemed very inviting, but it wasn't the right thing to do at this point.

Screen text


Yuminary Bryson, Venezuela:
The MBA, it wasn’t easy. It was—it was a hard program in general, but you know, I was here to do what I wanted to do. At the same time, then I guess my mum came to visit me for the summer, and then I guess that's where the plan started to brew as to why don't we immigrate? And I wasn't convinced at that time even when she said, "Let's just fill the paperwork. Let's do this. Let's try and see it." I was like, "Okay, well, I'm going to go along with this idea," but as I said, I never thought, “I'm not coming back home.”

Joelle Buchanan, Jamaica:
Yeah, I knew why she came, because of a job opportunity. So. And she dragged me along with her, so. Yeah, but I miss Jamaica a lot, so.

Kateryna Stepanova, Ukraine:
But I think at that time it kind of caused a bit of struggle because my boys, they went to Grade one and kindergarten, they didn't do much in school. They had to focus on English. And these kids, they picked it up very fast and the kids, they meet new kids. There was a lot of immigrants in school, so they kind of got friends very fast. For me it was different. I was struggling a lot emotionally because I was a teenager and it was hard to learn language. And I think that's when my parents kind of were missing that part, that it's hard, so they were pressuring me towards my school even though they didn't see that I didn't do well emotionally because I, I was lonely. I didn't have anybody.

Joelle Buchanan (JB):


Yeah. That's the name of the group. And I would go every Saturday to practise. We danced mostly gospel music, and we would perform —


Yeah. And a lot of people would come, so. It was really fun. I had a lot of fun. It was nerve-racking, but after a while I got used to it, because I had to do — because I had to compete for my school, so, I got used to the big crowd, even though it was scary.

Kateryna Stepanova:
School had a lot of clubs for kids. And one of them was um, a Ukrainian national instrument, which we called "bandura." It's instrument that you use only in Ukraine. They don't teach it anywhere outside of it. It's something between a guitar and an harp. You put it on your knees and you raise one hand and you play with another, so there is more than 80 strings to play. And um, with your left hand you use it only on the top ones, so it would give that beat. As all instruments, you need to put it on the right key, and I was not able to do it. It's only my teacher used to do it, and you have to have a special instrument to do that. And I couldn't afford buying them. And if something would happen to instrument—if it's always happens, you know, you break, the string rips or whatever, I had to have an actual person fix it. And that actual person will be in Ukraine. So for me, ship it back and forth, it just costs a lot of money and my parents didn't have that much money to do because they were struggling with migration, which costs a lot of money.

Yuminary Bryson:
My first year I would say I wanted just to say “I am from Venezuela. I am Latin.” I just want to go — you know, I miss it. I want to listen to Latin music, and I used to go to whatever I heard that there's like a Latin dance night, I will go there because I want to follow my roots. Like, things that I wouldn't have even cared so much—like back home I wouldn't, I didn't go out too much dancing. But here, it was like I'm going to find the things just to go do what I didn't do from my culture.

Screen text

Mothers and Daughters

Here was a bit boring, since I didn't really have any friends or people to hang out my age, but it was also great seeing my mum for a year.

Or just under a year, but it seemed like a year.

It felt like forever, but—

She's the greater part of my life, so you know, I was missing her terribly. And nothing could comfort me. You know, I couldn't be comforted. So it was very difficult for me. So the first opportunity that I got, I was like, you know, "You have to come," because I couldn't leave, I was just there. So, and so my mum had to accompany her because she couldn't fly by herself. And of course I missed my mum too, so they both came. And we had a wonderful time, even though you thought it was boring.

Well, there were a few times—I would like to become an OB/GYN.

What is that?

Obstetrician, and a gynaecologist. I might live here for a while. Maybe when I'm finished university I'll move back to Jamaica, possibly. I'm not sure as yet. I don't know, the medical field interests me. At first I wanted to become a pediatrician, but I'm not really a fan of kids. So

I didn't know that.

I chose something else.

I am really happy to see how she has just grown into this really beautiful, you know, positive, young woman that's confident in who she is. And I'm so grateful, because otherwise it, it would have, it would have made me feel that my efforts and my sacrifice were in vain because I would have taken her to a place she hated, that she was unhappy, she's uncomfortable. And then that would be something that I would have to try and fix. But I don't. You know, maybe I need to fix myself.

There's more of that connection, I think you would say, between people. But from Canadian culture I would say I am much more open minded than a lot of people back home, than my parents are, for example, because of just the way they grew up and the way they view the world. I'm little bit more—I've had experience in Ukraine, so I know how Ukrainian people think back home. But I also lived here, and as a young person I see the world evolving from this side because here it's more available to you, it's more acceptable here than back home. So you kind of grab that half and half, and you kind of manage to put them together with yourself.

I agree with my daughter. In Ukraine, people more activity and more emotional. Here, more friendly. So I try to improve in Canadian culture, because for me it's not hard. But sometimes I don't understand rules here, and sometime it's problem for me. But when I have something, I always ask my daughter or my sons and they help me with my question.

I think of staying together as a family and supporting each other and trying to keep pushing each other to improve and to grow and to learn things more. And you just always have that sense that even if something is not very great or there is something that, something in your life, that you always can come home and whether with yelling or without yelling you can kind of solve it and you can have that backup that can help you out with your parents and with your family members.

We have in our home a very threatening situation where people came, kept us in our, in my bedroom. They were stealing everything that we have. They put a gun on my daughter head. And it was close to one hour. It was the worst nightmare for me as a mother to see my children and I was unable to do something to prevent that, and being myself a very over-protective mother. That situation changed my mind internally, my soul.

It was too much, that was imposed on me. I felt really, you know, constrained into what I could do. And I think, you know, I don't think I could have a good relationship with my children right now if I behave the way that my mum used to do. And it was different times, right? So I think yes, I'm definitely more lenient and more flexible.

I see a lot of strength in my daughter. I am very proud of her. And, even though I see her at her age now, in my mind she still is my little one. So is like you seeing a little one but being really on, with control of the situation.

Maybe what I’ve learned about this, the whole thing is about hope. Yeah, like I mean, I think that is what keeps me going. That's what kept my mum going, everything. It's just knowing that it might work out or it might be different tomorrow. You don't know. So that's, that's scary and exciting. So.

Screen Text

My Mother and I: Our Journey

Thank you to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 staff and the Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax staff and Board members for your support and contributions to this project!

Thank you to Omaira, Yumi, Olena, Kateryna, Charisma, and Joelle who graciously shared their time, experiences, and insights with us for this project!

Source Credits:
Oral History 19.09.27OS with Olena Stepanova
Oral History 19.09.27KS with Kateryna Stepanova
Oral History 19.09.27OSKS with Olena Stepanova and Kateryna Stepanova

Oral History 19.09.27OO with Omaira Ospino
Oral History 19.09.27YB with Yuminary Bryson
Oral History 19.09.27OOYB with Omaira Ospino and Yuminary Bryson

Oral History 19.09.28CG with Charisma Grace
Oral History 19.09.28CGJB with Charsima Grace and Joelle Buchanan

Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Courtesy of Omaira Ospino, Yuminary Bryson,
Charisma Grace, and Olena Stepanova

Community Oral History Project Coordinators:
Emily Burton
María José Yax-Fraser

Interview analysis:
Emily Burton
María José Yax-Fraser
Nadira Al Nasleh

Oral History Assistants:
Madine Vanderplaat
Deanne Smith

Video Filming and Studio Stills:
Darryl LeBlanc

Video Editing:
Serena Rodgers

Awake by Ricky Valadez

Logo of IMWAH - Immigrant Migrant Women's Association of Halifax

Logo of The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Logo of The Government of Canada