My lollipop-red high heel shoes brought me to Canada—to a new language, new culture and new adventures. After years of trying to adjust and be like others, I finally feel free to be myself.
I was walking down a sun-bleached Mediterranean street lined with little shops, the ones where you can buy everything for under ten dollars. All at once, I saw them—bright, red, high heel shoes. I froze. I couldn’t look away. They glistened like a lollipop from my childhood—so desirable and so forbidden. They promised me a colourful future that hadn’t come true. They could be my ruby-red slippers that would take me on the yellow brick road.
In my reflection in the store window, it was as if I saw my mother. My always elegant mom would’ve stopped to look at them too. “Remember, shoes should always match your purse,” she would’ve said. “My little one, you can get everything you wish for,” she would’ve added. But who believes their mothers?
Emigration to Israel from Russia gave me only one choice–to adjust. New country, new language, new rules. I had defended my Ph.D. thesis in Russia, but I took a job that paid the bills in Israel. Every day I performed simple office tasks, surrounded by women who wore flip flops to work. It was Israel. Flip flop culture.
‘I should be like them if I want to succeed,’ I thought. I was trying to convince or maybe excuse myself. I lost myself under the ruthless sun, under ruthless scrutiny. I became like them. Flip flops, t-shirt, jeans. “You are a real Israeli girl–blatant and evil.” They were kidding, but I knew this wasn’t a joke.
The price was sky-high.
“Two hundred dollars only!” The shop owner was calling me into the store.
“Straight from the Prada boutique! It’s a steal!”
Two hundred dollars. That was three months of swimming lessons for my son. And the red lollipop shoes WERE completely impractical. But they promised me another life. A life of courage, adventures and beautiful places to explore. A life in another country, where I would have a choice to be different and to be myself. At that moment, I knew I had it in me to immigrate for the second time with my husband and two children. To learn a new language and a new culture. A woman who owned such shoes could not lose herself.
Five years later, I brought those “useless” lollipop-red shoes to Canada. They have set me on this road.
These days my road is a meandering trail that I walk every morning to work. It is lined with old maple trees. Early morning light slants through the leaves. The meadows are bright with clover and daisies, and buttercups. My dress is alive with flowers, as though they flew up and landed on my skirt. The sun sparkles on my shiny shoes. It turns out Mom was right. I wear dresses with dancing skirts, high heels and a matching purse and I’ve got everything I wished for.
People from all over the world work in my office. A woman from India wears bright saris and flip flops, just like she would’ve back home. A girl from Sri Lanka wears sneakers because she says they help her sore feet. A guy from China sports ultra-modern shiny loafers because he simply likes them. I tried to fit so desperately in Israel. Now I feel free to be myself and to see people for who they are. I know I can wear my lollipop-red shoes everywhere–they fit me, and I fit too. I can wear everything with confidence because five years ago I had the courage to buy those lollipop-red shoes.
JULIA LISKER is 40, but she feels like 20. She is happily married to Jackob–she carries his name with honour, and he carries out her crazy ideas. Her two incredible boys teach her amazing things about life. She loves to begin new things but hates completing them. It was a long way—from Russia to Israel and Canada—to finally feel at home.