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Be Happy Now – The story of a young Ukrainian mother living in Lafayette

Nov 22, 2022 07:07AM ● By Yuliya Tuzhyk

 When I was a kid, I used to read a lot. Sometimes my parents got upset because I couldn't stop reading till late at night, and the next day I had to go to school tired. They took books from me, but I hid one anyway and, using the flashlight under the blanket, continued reading, imagining myself in the middle of adventures, as described in the novels. Since that time, I have liked to compare people with books. They all have titles (names), covers, and a lot of exciting stories. Let me share a part of mine. 

 My name is Yuliya. I have lived in Louisiana for over three years but am originally from Ukraine. I bet you have heard much about my native country for almost a year now. Unfortunately, it’s not a reason why I would be happy if the entire world knew about Ukraine. And we will come back to this topic shortly.

 I was born in a small town, and most of my childhood I spent at my grandparent's house, surrounded by nature and a farm. That made a significant impact on my way of thinking. Over there, I started writing my poems and stories; I fell in love for the first time and dreamed of becoming a journalist. Time flew. I graduated from school and left my parents' home to chase my dreams and continue high education at a university in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv. In five years, I got my diploma as an editor and journalist. I started working way before graduation at the school magazine "World literature." It was a fantastic experience. Besides improving my professional skills, I  was in an atmosphere of books and authors worldwide. After some time, I left my job and tried to find something that allowed me to make more money. At that time, government newspapers and magazines didn't have a reasonable salary rate, and it was hard to cover all my expenses in a big city. Finally, after some years of experience, I got a job as a customer service representative at Switzerland and Great Britain visa center. It was fantastic. Later I became an HR manager. The company provided free English classes and career opportunities. The knowledge that I gained from that time was priceless. Every morning I woke up early and was so happy to go to work. In the meantime, my long-term relationship was draining life energy from me. Deep inside, I knew it was not the right person, but I was still afraid, to be honest with myself. One day I found out my boyfriend was chatting on a dating site. We broke up, but I decided to register on the same dating site to look at his profile. I couldn't find him, at the same time I received a couple of messages from some guy from the USA. It was not my goal to meet the love of my life at that moment, but the universe decided for me. We were texting every day even though the time difference was 8 hours. My future husband came to see me for the first time in three months. Then after six months, we went on vacation to Greece, where he proposed to me, and I said "yes." And in another six months, I  received a fiancée visa. It was a new experience for both of us, dating someone from another country with a different mentality with an age gap of 16 years. We had some judgments about our relationship from the outside, but luckily, our families were supportive. 

Moving to the United States was not easy. I had a lot of doubts and fights inside because, on the one hand, I wanted to be a happy wife and mom; on the other hand, I am the only daughter. Also, thinking about leaving my entire life and everything I knew before was hard because I had never planned to live in another country, especially another continent. Besides, I have never been to the USA and learned about this place only from the movies. Soon things got better, and I adapted to my new life and enjoyed being next to my soulmate. In one year and a half, I received my permission to work. And in the same week, I got a job as a housekeeper at the hotel. We lived in Utah, but my husband got a job offer in California. He drove back and forth every week to see me for four months. Then he went to Louisiana for another interview, and it's how we ended up living here. 

  In the meantime, we were struggling with having a kid. After three years of infertility, we finally became parents to an amazing little girl, and I found a lot of happiness and joy in being a mom. But everything changed for me, like for every Ukrainian, on February 24th this year. 

 That day we returned with my husband and daughter from a Cajun restaurant and talked about delicious crawfish, making plans for the weekend. When we got home, I opened Instagram and saw a bunch of stories from my friends that Russia was bombing multiple cities all over Ukraine. I fell to my knees and started crying. I was shocked and scared. With a shaking hand, I made a video call to my parents. It was six in the morning at their time, and they didn't even know what was going on. At first, they didn't believe me. I will never forget that day. I constantly checked the news for a week or two, almost without sleeping. Seeing horrible images and videos of crimes committed by aggressors who invaded our sovereign territory gave a feeling like a horror movie scene. Unfortunately, it has been a reality in my motherland for almost a year. Even now, while writing this story, I received a message about another city hit by missiles. Thousands of people never come back home. Miserable, painful everyday life for my country. I constantly feel pain, anger, sorrow, and hopelessness. All these emotions switch one by another, 24/7. Everything that we can do is pray and donate money to the Ukrainian army.

 At that time, I thought it was the worst thing that could happen, but I was wrong. One day my mom called me: «Please, don't worry, I need to tell you something. I have to see a doctor in another city because the local specialist believes I have cancer». 

 At that moment, I almost fainted. The only thing that kept me awake was my little daughter. In a week, my mom received the results of a biopsy. Cervix cancer stage two was confirmed. Horrible feeling not to be able to see mom when she needed me - chemotherapy, surgery, war. I was afraid not to be able to see her face, smell her, hug her, kiss her, and say enough how much I love her. 

 I realized all my problems and complaints before the war and mom's health were unimportant. I learned all that we have in this life is now. The past doesn't matter. The future doesn't exist. In our routines, we are always rushing somewhere. Sometimes we don't call our parents for weeks, don't ask friends how they are doing, and even forget to kiss our kids before they go to bed. We are all constantly concentrating our attention on our goals and everyday needs and missing something important- celebrating every day like the last one and living in the moment. To enjoy life and be happy now. To be present on this beautiful earth it's a big blessing. Every day we should remember we are all like books and fill ourselves with many beautiful stories.