Working as a butcher in Canada. The most positive interview
Ukrainian Artem Lykov changed his job without a future for life in the country of dreams, where he had already bought a car and his own home.
My conversation with Artem Lykov is a must-see for anyone who wants to immigrate to another country. For 6 years now, Artem has been living in the province of Alberta, famous for its rich oil deposits. However, he works as an employee at a meat processing plant and does not regret his choice at all.
— (Alex) Artem, are you a butcher by trade?
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— (Artem) In the past I was also a butcher! In general, I've worked as anything but a furniture maker, a mechanic repairman at a factory, and a security guard. I immigrated to Alberta as an employee of a meat processing plant. Now, 4 years later, I am working at the same meat factory, but already as a supervisor. In Russian, master of production at the enterprise: I manage a staff of 60 people, I'm responsible for a certain area of production. I don't cut the meat myself any more, I supervise that others do this work correctly, in accordance with the instructions.
And it all started with a childhood dream
— (Alex) Artem, tell us about your journey to Canada.
— (Artem) The thought of moving to Canada first came to me in 8th grade when I was playing ball with a friend on the soccer field. My friend asked me if I was thinking about emigrating somewhere. I replied that it would be a good idea to go to Canada because I had heard that this country welcomed immigrants. Interestingly enough, I was already studying with an English tutor when I was 6 years old. And when my father asked me why I needed English, I told him that I would grow up and go to live to America. But I missed a bit and landed not in the USA, but in Canada.
— (Alex) And still ended up in North America!
— (Artem) Yes. As you can see, my first dream to go here started back in the playground. Then, when I grew up and got a family, got a taste of independent life and responsibility for my family, I realized that I had to devote more and more time to work. At the same time, I was only able to provide for some basic needs of my family. That's when I realised that something had to change. I tried to assert myself in my country, but I failed ... maybe because I lacked some connections, acquaintances .... And then I started to think seriously about immigration and started studying the information on the subject.
One day I came across a video on the Internet which showed the Canadian life of my former Ukrainian compatriots. And what I saw impressed me so much that I literally became obsessed with the idea of moving and started turning my dreams into reality.
That is why I now live in Canada with my family and have PR (permanent resident) status. We are happy, we had another child here, already a Canadian citizen.
First steps on the road to Canada
— (Alex) What exactly did you do to get into Canada?
— (Artem) My way here was not easy, it required certain volitional efforts. Without it, it's impossible not only to move, but also to live away from relatives, to make one's way in a foreign country. After all, you have to rearrange yourself here, organize your comfort zone.
By the time I moved, I had already been working at the metallurgical plant as a repair mechanic for 3 years. I remember when I first started working at the plant, a friend of mine said: "Well congratulations, Artem, that's where you'll meet your retirement, at this plant. I asked why he thought so, and my friend replied: "Because the factory gives you so much money that you can eat and go to work. But that prospect did not suit me.
I was already thinking about how to provide a good future for my children — that was my biggest motivation to move forward. When I researched immigration programs, I realized that I could go to Canada under the program of working immigration.
And I started remembering the English language: right at work, at work stops, listening to and repeating English lessons. My colleagues were very surprised when they noticed that something was happening to me, that I had become a different person. I told them that I had set a goal to immigrate to Canada, that is why I was learning English. Not everyone understood me. After all, I was doing something that they were not doing, so I seemed strange and maybe even obsessed. And I was really obsessed with the idea of immigration!
— (Alex) You said you've been studying English since you were six years old. And then you gave it all up?
— (Artem) I studied the language with a tutor, studied English at school, and then at technical school. But after all this long studying I have only some rules in my head, but no speaking practice. So my level of English remained basic. But as it turned out later, all the knowledge I accumulated over the years of study was not forgotten: when I began to remember the language as an adult, my learning went very quickly.
When I came to take the English for immigration exam, I needed to get 3 points on the 12-point system. According to preliminary data, I scored 0, 0, 1, 2, and I was surprised myself. Because I went to take the language test without any special preparation, but rather out of sheer enthusiasm.
This exam was taken by a Ukrainian contractor, who was looking for good workers for a Canadian company, where I'm working now. Other workers from different cities of Ukraine took the exam together with me. Afterwards we travelled with them as a group of 12 people to Canada. I became close friends with some of the guys from that team and one of them even became my mentor.
When I passed the preliminary exam I thought that my English is not so bad. But it was not so... To pass the official IELTS exam I took an intensive language training course in Kiev. English classes on the courses began at 8 am and ended at 4 pm.
How I convinced my boss to give me time off
— (Alex) You quit your job to learn English?
— (Artem) It was an interesting situation. At that time I was working at the former plant Krivorozhstal (now ArcelorMittal) as a fitter, and I was alone on the whole site. To go to train in Kiev I had to take leave and I asked my foreman about it. But the foreman didn't give me a leave and sent me to the head, whom all my subordinates were afraid of, because he was such a serious person.
I explained to the director that I had already signed a contract with a Canadian employer and now had to learn English on a two-month course in Kyiv. He didn't want to let me go to Kiev either, since I was alone in my workplace, and then suggested I just quit, since I was leaving Ukraine anyway.
But I worked up the courage to convince my boss that it was not to his advantage to fire me. At that time I had already proven myself in production and I knew that it would not be easy to find a replacement for me. I told my manager that I would try to go to Canada and settle in the new country, but if I failed and had to go back I would not want my name in the "Krivoy Rog Book of Losers". I'd rather just go back to my workplace, in which case neither I nor the plant would lose anything. Most likely, the boss did not expect me to be so assertive. As I remember now: he smoked nervously and then sent me to the personnel department to arrange my leave.
To the goal — in armor!
I would like to say to everyone who will watch my interview video or read it: if you want change, it has to start from within, with a change in your personal perception of reality. You have to become a determined and firm person. If you are not satisfied with life at home, for whatever reason, you have to put on armor and fight for a better future, for a better life. When I was going to emigrate and there were some obstacles in my way, I just went ahead purposefully and did everything I could to eliminate them.
How I prepared for the IELTS exam
It's one thing just to speak English, but it's another thing to take the IELTS exam. In order to succeed, you need to know not only the language itself, but also the different "tricks", the subtleties of taking the exam, and to meet the time limit.
A valuable detail of my intensive English study was the live interaction with a native speaker once a week. It's funny to remember now, but the first time we saw an American, we looked at him like a Martian and were surprised that he had very white teeth and great skin! This guy was embarrassed by our increased attention, scared and started asking, "Guys, guys, what's going on?" (Guys, what's going on?) His job was to talk to us, he had to get us talking so we could understand real American. Our teachers had good English, but they still spoke with an accent.
In two months of intensive work, during the daytime on the course itself and in the evenings at home, I achieved excellent results. In the end I got the following grades: 5.5, 5, 6.5 and 4.5 (writing). I did a little worse in writing, because I didn't get the topic right.
— (Alex) Do I understand correctly: you passed the exam for 1-3 points, then you had 2 months of intensive studies on special courses and passed IELTS with the average mark of 5.0 ?
— (Artem) Yes, I achieved these results because I was moving purposefully in the right direction.
How to break the language barrier and immerse yourself in English
When I was studying the language, I completely immersed myself in the English language environment, I tried not to speak Russian at all.
In Kiev we found the Mormon community — they were guys from America, who had come to Ukraine to promote their Mormon church. By the way, many Ukrainians come to them to practice their English. Mormons understand this and treat us very well.
We liked communicating with these guys. During our meetings they conducted different quizzes and games in English. When we didn't understand something, they would prompt us and explain. This is how I managed to break my language barrier in communicating with foreigners: I stopped being afraid to make mistakes for fear of appearing stupid and uneducated.
I remember when a guy from Israel came to our company. He spoke Russian as if he were Russian or Ukrainian himself. In addition to Russian, he also had an excellent command of English, all because he had practiced speaking it a lot. You should not be afraid of making mistakes — you should be afraid of doing nothing, I think.
— (Alex) Yes, that's valuable advice.
— (Artem) Many of my friends who knew that I was excited about the idea of immigration and decided to move to Canada did not think that I would succeed.
Firstly, because there are many unscrupulous organizations that just charge money, and then disappear and do not help to immigrate at all, as they promise at the beginning. Some of my acquaintances suffered from such frauds. But there were people who believed that everything would work out for me. For example, my cousin Masha spoke good English, and we often communicated in English.
At the time, I had a fix idea: total immersion in a language environment. And I created this environment for myself. Anyone can do the same: there are many audiobooks, films and various trainings which enable you to learn the language at a decent level which is necessary for immigration.
What happened next
After I passed the language exam, I passed the medical examination and started to prepare for my flight to Canada. And here I was informed that I would have to wait a couple of weeks, as the flight was being postponed. Of course I was a bit worried and went back to the factory to keep myself busy. My acquaintances laughed, saying, "The Canadian is back already". The consolation was that I already had my Canadian visa in my passport.
— (Alex) Work visa?
— (Artem) Yes, I had a work visa. But it does not entitle me to work for any other organizations than the one that invited me. A couple of days later, on Tuesday, I received a call that our team of workers was leaving for Canada on Saturday. And I thought about how much I still have to do. I immediately went to my supervisor and asked how I could leave and told him that I would already be in Canada in 3 days.
The boss was very surprised and replied that no one gets fired just like that, but you can come to work drunk, and then I will be immediately fired under the article. I did not like that option, I wanted everything to be done right. And the boss helped — a few hours later I was fired and handed in my work equipment.
And further events unfolded as follows. I flew to Lviv, where our team was assembled and brought up to speed: we were told what lay ahead and what we had to prepare for. All the guys were very happy, because our dream came true — we were flying to work in Canada!
I had never flown in an airplane before. And here the adrenaline was just off the scale: I was very nervous and at the same time looking forward to the flight. (By the way, now I have a new idea — I want to jump with a parachute!)
From Lviv we flew to Warsaw. I was curious to walk around the airport and look at everything. From Warsaw, we were on a flight to Toronto and then on to Calgary. It was such a long flight. During the flight I was still waiting for food, I must have been very nervous.
Into a polar bear yurt
I have fond memories from those events: it was very exciting to escape from my routine and fully immerse myself in something new. I felt like a child who had just begun to explore the world.
The trip was not without "jokes". I packed a lot of warm clothes for Canada: jackets, sweatshirts, etc. I dressed in my warmest clothes: a jacket, cotton pants... I thought we would live in Canada like in Siberia: sleeping in a yurt among polar bears. Somehow before I left I forgot to google information about the weather in Canada and how people generally dress.
So I was coming out of the airport, like a "Siberian". And a Filipino in flip-flops, short shorts and a T-shirt is walking towards me, drinking juice and looking at me with great amazement in his eyes.
Five pillows for one
We were picked up at the airport in Toronto and taken by bus to the hotel, where we were provided with comfortable rooms. I remember high beds with mattresses and 5 pillows, which surprised me a lot because I had never seen such a bed before. I then thought, why so many pillows?
— (Alex) One bed for 5 people (just kidding)!
— (Artem) Yeah... We all lived in double rooms and each of us had our own big bed with 5 pillows. By the way, we were welcomed by Russian-speaking immigrants, warmly received and immediately well fed: everyone got a big portion of rice and salad and a barbecue of turkey. We were astonished at the size of the portions: we could not finish them, so we put the rest of our dinner in trays and took it back to our rooms.
Then we went to bed, but we couldn't sleep either — the process of adapting to the new time zone began: it was 3 am in Canada, and at home it was noon, so we decided to finish our dinner instead of sleeping.
At the hotel I continued to be amazed at everything I saw and took pictures of everything: copper plumbing in the bathroom, mountains of free sandwiches and coffee in the dining room for breakfast, etc. At that time I was amazed at the free food, we all rejoiced at such a freebie! Now I'm used to hotel staff taking care of guests, and that's normal.
Niagara and the Chinese buffet: a start has been made!
In the morning it turned out that all of our guys had stayed up all night and were walking around Toronto. Then they gathered us all up and took us to see Niagara Falls. By the way, many immigrants start their life in Canada by visiting Niagara Falls.
— (Alex) There's a very powerful energy there.
— (Artem) Yes, it's extremely beautiful there, such landscapes around! In general, it was cool! I remember, I just fell on the grass and lay down, enjoying the beauty. I was also surprised that the area was very clean, and all the people were friendly, quietly approaching us and saying hello. And we all said, "Hello!"
— (Alex) Did you take your coat off? Maybe that's why they approached you...
— (Artem) No, no, at that point I was already dressed for the weather. I was glad that I carried extra things on me. And I advise you: if you don't have room in your bag, put everything on yourself and fly (just kidding)!
Then we had lunch at the Chinese buffet. You could go there and get as much or as little food as you wanted, there was no control over how much you could eat. There was such a variety of dishes and we wanted to try them all so badly that some of our guys would just take food, take a bite and give it back. Of course, it was not nice, and the restaurant staff looked at us crookedly... But we really wanted to try everything!
Then we flew to the city of Calgary, Alberta province. When you look out of the plane window at night Toronto, you see an endless ocean of lights, it's a huge megalopolis... A beautiful picture!
It was a quick flight to Calgary, where we were met by our union representatives and taken to the small town of Red Deer, with a population of 100,000 people. It is located between Edmonton and Calgary.
A little digression: when my grandmother (and she is an "advanced" one!) found out about my idea to immigrate to Canada, she commented: "Grandson, they will take you there to work as a prostitute". Then, when I went to the medical commission, I made a joke myself: "Grandma, I'm going to the medical commission, because an elite prostitute must be clean!
In Red Deer we were again accommodated in a comfortable hotel, in cozy rooms with big white beds. It was the weekend, so we spent 4 days just relaxing, walking around the area. Our accommodation included paid breakfasts. By the way, I came to Canada with $300 CAD in my pocket, which was all I had at the time.
All in all, adaptation took us 2 weeks — during this time we did not work, and we only saw the plant itself. The union representatives drove us around the city and explained us where and what was there to help us get used to our new life. And our adaptation went very smoothly and comfortably.
In the trade union office of the plant we were read the work contract and were introduced to the internal policy of the enterprise: we were told about the requirements, the system of fines, etc. We found out what nationalities work here, what to expect from them and how to interact with them.
One of our guys, who already had experience in America, said: "Guys, this is a resort! I remember when I came to work in the U.S., they gave me a shovel right off the plane and told me: "Go dig! I didn't even have time to take a shower."
Yes, for many of us it really was a paid Canadian resort. And after two weeks, we had already started working...
You have already read the first part of my interview with Artem. In the second part, he will share how he rose to the position of supervisor in Canada. You will learn about the differences between Canadian and Ukrainian unions and how they protect the interests of ordinary workers. We will discuss the salaries of butchers and managers. Artem will explain in detail the Canadian immigration program and how he got permanent residency. Now you know how realistic it is to repeat Artyom's immigration trip. We will talk about his family and his life in Canada.
If you want to repeat the story of Artyom and immigrate to Canada, book a consultation with our licensed immigration consultants: they will tell you in detail about immigration programs, assess your chances of immigration and explain how they can be improved.