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Although my childhood was happy, some painful memories impacted important choices I made later in life. When I was 14, my family moved to the region where my grandmother lived. It was a small village in the center of Ukraine, where I had a very active childhood. My parents worked hard in the city to provide a stable environment for me, and my duty was to help my grandma with her small household, which included many chickens, ducks, rabbits, and a pig. I liked being there so much. I loved all the animals and could spend so much time "communicating" with them. I remember once, when the female rabbit died of illness and left five newborn bunnies, I looked after them and fed them with a pipette. The bunnies grew tame, and they loved me as much as I loved them. We had many happy moments together.
However, I also remember moments of incredible cruelty. Sometimes I watched how a chicken or a duck ran around the yard with a freshly cut-off head. It isn't easy to describe what I felt. It was a mix of embarrassment and helplessness. I liked one little pig, black with white ears, which was hilarious. He always wanted to knock me down; maybe that's how he got my attention. When the pig grew up, I cried and begged the adults not to kill him. Unfortunately, the pig was slaughtered, fried and served on the table without my knowledge. When my parents called me for "dinner,” I did not realize that the meat on the plates was my murdered friend. I had nausea for several days when I found out what I had eaten. So, you can guess how I felt about the death of the rabbits which I had brought up. It was a feeling of sorrow. I told all our neighbours what had happened, but they listened to me with bewilderment and did not understand my sadness.
Additionally, my father was getting into hunting then, so I occasionally heard from his friends how they tracked down wild boars. During butchering, it turned out that some of the terrified animals had died from a heart attack and not from a hunting bullet. My heart broke with regret every time I heard stories like that, which have stayed in my memory to this day. Unfortunately, my life was full of such events due to financial instability, lack of food diversity, and the living environment. Even so, I tried to avoid eating murdered animals whenever it was possible.
When I came to Canada, something changed inside me, as a puzzle put together, and I deeply realized the impact of all those events from my distant childhood. The refusal of meat occurred very fast. Being a vegetarian in Canada is easy, with such a varied choice of fruits and vegetables, and with so many like-minded people all around. My daughters joined me immediately. When my younger daughter was little, she asked me, "Who decided that some animals are friends and others are food? " It is hard to answer this question, isn't it?
I have not shared my childhood memories with you to encourage you to become a vegetarian. This is a personal choice. However, through my story, I want to warn you about how some things that are part-of-the-usual for adults can negatively impact children. My childhood experience helped me be a protective and mindful mother and taught me to carefully listen to my children's opinions and pay attention to their emotions. Consequently, my girls are growing up happy, and they are kind and compassionate.
tories of home, memories, turning points
© Nataliia Valchuk
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Valchuk, Nataliia, "Becoming a Vegetarian" (2023). Memories and Turning Points. 6.