In Ukraine, Olena Lugova buys a pair of blue suede high heels adorned with small dice. The shoes carry her all over the world, and eventually, they take her from her war-torn home to Halifax. The dice are a sign that every move she has made is a toss-up, a combination of experience, work, and luck.
One day eight years ago, I bought a pair of shoes decorated with a small pair of dice. When I saw these shoes, I thought, “Oh, their platform soles are so colourful. I can wear these with any outfit. The blue suede on the top is extremely soft. Even though the heels are high, these shoes will be comfortable. And a pair of dice. So bewitching and unpredictable, like everything in our lives.” I just had to have them!
So many memories got attached to these shoes. I wore them, walking with my daughter on the narrow streets of downtown Kyiv, both of us happy to sightsee. We lived in the most beautiful city on the planet. That day the imposing chestnut trees were in bloom. The breeze from the wide, deep-blue Dnieper River caressed their pyramid-shaped, pale pink flowers, spreading their sweet scent around the crowded small houses, under the arches and the cracks of the medieval fretwork. We could see the cluster of the gold-domed churches of Lavra. The famous monastery sparkled in the sun on the grassy hill. We enjoyed spending time together, eating ice-cream, and sharing little secrets.
“You know that all my friends love your shoes? I want to be just like you and wear only unusual shoes too,” my daughter said.
“You know, sweetheart, these shoes aren’t just a little irregular. They are also magical. I wore them to all my important presentations at work, and they always helped me feel confident.”
Some memories are like flags on a map. These blue suede shoes travelled with me all over the world. I saw many breathtaking places: old cities in Europe, noisy ones in Asia, sunny and colourful ones in Africa. They moved me easily from country to country, drawing compliments from strangers. And yet, they always came back to Ukraine.
When I was leaving my home country forever, I carefully packed my favourite shoes in my brown suitcase. I thought of everything that happened to me with them. I thought about everything I was not able to change, including the most frightening and unpredictable—the war that had been tearing my country apart for more than five years.
The bizarre pattern of my life had been woven from diverse desires, significant and sometimes almost invisible achievements, hard-to-reach goals, courageous dreams, decisions both deliberate and thoughtless, and unexpected circumstances. The dice on my shoes were a sign that every single moment of our lives, whether sad or happy, was the combination of knowledge we received, our aspirations, diligence, hard work, along with coincidences and luck. Just as with throwing dice, we cannot control the outcome.
No one could predict that I would be here in Halifax, in such a cozy, friendly Atlantic city, on another continent. I would wear my shoes along the wooden waterfront boardwalk, breathing the dense and salty scent of the ocean, enjoying the sights and the small lighthouse, listening to the mischievous screams of seagulls, and watching the barges pass by.
Everything has happened for a reason. Every combination of my choices in conjunction with the opportunities I wasted or was able to take advantage of has given me a chance to be here, to look forward with eyes wide open, to realize I am a person who will take root in the new land. A person who appreciates the opportunity to live without war and raise children who respect humanity. A person who feels a sense of life and freedom and who is ready to face the next challenge.
I am wearing my shoes, and the dice are rolling again.
OLENA LUGOVA moved to Canada from Ukraine in 2018. With a strong background in project management and business administration, Olena works for one of the oldest and respectable architectural companies in the Atlantic region. An avid reader, she likes walking, cooking, making handmade crafts or playing board games with her family. She loves bright colours, scarves, heels, hot coffee in the morning and old cities in autumn. Olena believes in the power of kindness and appreciating every moment as a gift.