“Will you please write my story, V.J.?” fourteen-year-old Alina asked me recently. She and her family have now been living with Ric and I a month.
Alina is a striking young woman, calm and poised, and over the past month, I have come to appreciate the strength of her determination.
We talked about interests the first day we all met. 7-year-old Demian said he likes basketball. Vasylisa, chasing a soccer ball down the street, told me she likes “football”.
“How about you, Alina?” I asked.
“Cirque de soleil,” came the answer.
“Cirque de soleil?” I echoed. “Really?”
Alina promised a demonstration. For hours, she and her sister worked on a performance, choreographing moves and practicing. The next day we were all given tickets and ushered onto the back deck for the show.
Both girls demonstrated incredible flexibility and talent. “Vasylisa,” her mother explained to me, “does what is easy.” Alina, it is clear, will try and try again until she perfects a move. She is not averse to challenge.
For Alina’s recent birthday, her father and Ric built her hand canes. Hour after hour she practices her moves, drawing approval from the neighbours.
“Have you seen Cirque de Soleil live?” I asked, curious about the obsession.
“No. On TV.”
Alina studied acrobatic dance for four years before COVID hit. She was able to continue the dance online, but the acrobatics had to be shelved.
“Do you know what it takes to be successful?”
“Yes!” she responds with her accented English. “I practice 4 ½ hours, 3 – 4 times per week.”
Back in Ukraine, Alina studied at the Swan Circus School. “Her trainer said she is quite talented and has the perfect body for this,” her mother proudly tells me.
Alina shares that she wanted to come to Canada even before the war broke out, but her parents wouldn’t let her travel her on her own.
“So, you were glad to come to Canada?” I asked.
“Maybe God brought me here because I wanted to go to Cirque de Soleil.” It’s easy to share her faith.
Asked to describe her strengths, Alina confirms what I have already deduced about her: perseverance and determination. As for weaknesses, Alina confesses she likes sweets.
We celebrated Alina’s birthday at the Flying Squirrel in London with her brother and sister and our three granddaughters. Apart from endless floors of trampolines, ceiling high silks dangle over a foam pit. Alina climbed to the top of the silks and did the splits, while our two oldest watched in awe and frustration unable to mimic her moves. She then moved to the suspended hoop and demonstrated more of her talent.
The grace and self-control that Alina possesses in everyday life suggests that she has what it takes to succeed. Circus schools exist, I have discovered, in Stratford, and in London. The coveted Ecole Nationale de Cirque is located in Montreal and accepts 150 students a year from around the world.
I’m cheering for our young Ukrainian athlete to one day grace those boards.
(Image my own)