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The Vacation That Lasted a Lifetime

What started as a casual conversation between guest and staff on a Baltic Cruise has landed a Room Stewardess in Canada on a life changing course.

In 2008, my wife Judy and I, Dispenser Amenities’ President, Ian Wallace, were on a Baltic Cruise, enjoying three days in St. Petersburg as well as stops in Helsinki, Estonia, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Belgium.  During this cruise, we struck up a conversation with an employee of the cruise line, which was the beginning of a relationship that would become a life changing journey for both of us.

That employee was our Cabin Attendant, Tetyana, from Ukraine.  “Both she and her assistant, an Indian gentleman named Vijay, were simply delightful people who greeted us with the biggest, happiest smiles every time we saw them,” says Judy.  In chatting with them further, it was learned that they had become more than just working associates and had become a couple.  Over a quick glass of wine one afternoon, we learned that Tetyana had been working at sea since 2003 to support her son who lived with his grandmother in Ukraine.  Tetyana was an Electrical Engineer by trade, but she could not find a job in that field within Ukraine, so she began taking jobs aboard cruise ships out of necessity.  That however, left her little or no time to see her family, so she regularly sent money home to help support her son Andrusha and her mother.  Likewise, Vijay sent money home to India to help support his parents and siblings.

Both said they would love to start a new life that would be a better life for them in a new country like Canada.  It was a dream and the seeds were planted on that cruise.

For a year and a half, we continued communication with Tetyana and Vijay by Skype.  When we began planning a cruise in Asia, we told Tetyana our plans to be on a different ship for this trip.  By true coincidence Tetyana and Vijay had also changed ships and, sure enough, they would be on the same cruise voyage through Asia.  During check-in, cabin attendants assist the travellers to find their cabins and probably twenty attendants rotated through the newly arriving passengers. Who was waiting for the next passengers when it was our turn? Tetyana.   Great joy and hugs ensued and it was such a treat to see each other again.  The discussion about Canada continued but it was apparent that the couple could not leave their jobs because their families needed the money they sent back home.

We planned another cruise in 2011, this time in the Mediterranean on a new ship.  Fate again intervened and Tetyana and Vijay had changed to this ship, so we would see them again!  Amazing!  Once again, as we boarded the ship, you guessed it, Tetyana’s turn to take the guests to their cabin coincided with our timing at arrival, so another round of hugs and joy was exchanged.  By now, Vijay had been promoted to a Butler and looked a most handsome guy in his stunning black tuxedo.

Now after having worked on cruise ships for 8 years away from her family, Tetyana was really ready to do whatever it took to find a way to be with her son and live a normal life.  After more talk about the possibilities of coming to Canada, it was determined that the only viable approach  was if they could get an international student Visa to attend college.  So, against all odds, we set about to try to make it happen.  Tetyana had to pass English proficiency in written and oral ability and she was successful in that test.  She was conditionally admitted to the accounting program at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario but still had to obtain a Visa from the Canadian Embassy in Kiev.  Time passed and it was looking as if the school year would start before the Visa would be approved, if it even would be approved.  But on Friday, August 31st, a delighted Tetyana called to say that she and Andrusha had their Visas to come to Canada.

Judy immediately sent emails to everyone we knew asking for help with anything anybody had, to set up an apartment.  The tired travellers arrived at Toronto airport the next Wednesday evening where we picked them up to begin their new life.  We had found a nice two bedroom apartment close to our home and on Saturday morning, just eight days after the Visa phone call, they moved into an apartment that had been completely furnished and outfitted by donations!

They are so completely amazed and thankful to everyone who had helped to make this amazing day possible.  Tetyana is enjoying her accounting classes and learning about strange English terms like Assets and Liabilities.  “Andy”, who is now a ‘Canadian boy’ is in ninth grade, starting secondary school.  Their most used word is “unbelievable!”

Vijay, is still on the ship and everyone hopes that he will be able to join the family in London in the New Year to study Hotel Management in the same college.  Hopefully there will be more happy chapters to this story, all started over a glass of wine.

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