After immigrating to Toronto from Russia few years ago, Olga Vasina began to notice her husband becoming increasingly aggressive and abusive. In a new country with no one to turn to, she didn’t know what to do.
“Because you don’t know anybody (and) because you don’t have any friends, you don’t have any family because it’s a new country … You don’t have self confidence,” she said. “You feel like everything you’re doing is wrong.”
Vasina spoke during “Rising from Roses,” a night to invoke action against violence against women and to raise money for the North York Women’s Shelter. The event took place Nov. 29 at the Garrison Hotel on Queen Street West.
Throughout the evening women took to the stage to dance, sing or speak their way through stories about violence in their lives.
Olga Vasina is a survivor. She recently received an award for her personal courage during the North York Women’s Shelter’s “Hope Gala.” Despite the threat of violence from her husband, she took her two young children and found a place at the shelter.
“Looking back, I kind of scare myself,” she said.
Shamini Selvaratnum organized the Rising from Roses event to highlight an international event (staged between Nov. 25 and Dec. 10), known as “16 Days of Action Against Gender Violence.” She stressed, though, that taking action against gender violence should continue throughout the year.
“Oftentimes, when there are these international days that proclaim something, and do something, it sometimes becomes meaningless,” she said.
“Lots of groups have government pledge things, but they’re just tokenistic. I don’t think people taking action to end violence against women, or any type of gender violence should be confined to 16 days.”
Today, Olga Vasina balances her busy work life and her life as a single mother as best as she can. She admits that having her children, now five and eight, in daycare and at school helps a lot. She also makes a point to spend as much time as possible with them after school, and enrolls them in a variety of extra-curricular activities. She says loving her job helps a lot.
“I’m trying my best. The kids are growing up, and eventually, they might help,” she said.