My Butterfly Shoes

Kristina Pandilovska


For ten years, Kristina Pandikovska’s life is as transient as a butterfly’s. She is shuttled between her mother’s home in Macedonia and her father’s in Canada. When she finally settles in Canada, she asks her mother to send her the white leather shoes decorated with butterflies in which she had performed in Macedonia. To her delight, her mother doesn’t send them.


Who would have thought that I’d go up on a stage, in a foreign country far away from where I was born, to tell my story? My story begins in Eastern Europe, in my small Macedonia.

For as long as I can remember, I was a performer. I loved dressing up in front of my mother, who would use wooden blocks to build me a stage in the middle of the room. I wore these white leather shoes with butterflies on them. I performed for my dad, too, as I was Daddy’s only princess, but he was never home.

Charming guy. Always on the road, full of life, had some funky business going on. We had fridges in the basement filled with ice cream and chocolates that weren’t for us. Those were some wealthy times in Macedonia—if one had ties with neighbouring countries and businesses that weren’t quite legal. Still, my father loved us to death, and we lived carefreely.

Little did my mother know that fast life and fast money had an abrupt end. My brother was a baby, and I was six years old when Dad had to flee the country. I was playing outside. He just said a short goodbye, kissed and hugged me strongly and left in a waiting car. I couldn’t wait to get back to playing, thinking he’d be coming back in a couple of days. My mom had no choice but to return to her mother’s home and take care of her babies.

A couple of days turned into 12 years. Later I learned he had paid a guy to make him a passport, a thing easily done in corrupt Macedonia, entered Canada with a fake name, Boris, and married another woman who sponsored him for papers. When it was safe for him to come back to Macedonia—all those years later—he did so and stayed with us. All four of us even went on vacation together. We tried to pretend everything was okay. It wasn’t. My father had another child by then—another little princess. I was holding a big and dark grudge against him. My first love betrayed me.

Shortly after he returned to Canada, I boarded a plane for Canada with my brother Filip. My mom stayed behind again. How could she accompany us? She was no longer my father’s wife. We didn’t know how, and neither did he. So, we came alone as the children of a new permanent resident. Filip, six years younger, and I arrived in Toronto on a cold November night. The wind chill was unforgiving, our suitcases heavy as rocks. We were told we’d be staying for six months only and then go back. I guess that was the lie that had to be told. Where did my father take us? To his new wife’s house.

Filip and I were in it together. We split the hurting. We stayed for six months, then went back to Macedonia to visit Mom. We did this for ten long years, living between the two completely different countries, migrating back and forth, without a stable home. In Canada, we lived with my dad and saw our little sister regularly. He no longer lived with her mother. In Macedonia, we lived with our mom and had all our friends and teenage life.

When I was asked to participate in The Shoe Project, I asked my mother to send me my favourite butterfly shoes that I had worn when I danced in front of my family. I have been like a migrating butterfly, flitting from warm to cold. I suppose the struggle to break through a cocoon makes the butterfly’s wings strong. I have fallen in love with Canada and finally forgiven my parents. 

Guess what, though. My mom didn’t send me the shoes. She brought them. She is in this audience. She got accepted to visit us and maybe even stay in Toronto. Ten years after we left her behind, she got a ten-year super visa for being one deserving and patient lady.        

KRISTINA PANDILOVSKA came from Macedonia to Toronto in 2010. She has a diploma in early childhood education and is currently working in the travel industry.

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