Three weeks of our life in Canada have flown by, and it is time to tell you the story of how we moved to Canada. It is necessary to start from the moment of preparation for immigration and describe how we did it.
Many people know how long we have been sorting and packing our items in Kyiv. First, a lot of things had to be sorted according to the principle of “must (keep) - don’t need (throw away)”, then from the “must” that remained, many things were donated to the assisted living (seniors) and an orphanage, a lot of things went to the animal shelter. Finally, many books, items, furniture, and equipment were gifted to our relatives, friends, and acquaintances.
By the end of the last week of our stay in Kyiv, we had very few things left in the apartment - the bags we took with us on the plane, the cat cage and things we sent as unaccompanied cargo. The carrier company took packed things that went as unaccompanied cargo from us a couple of days before departure.
We didn’t sleep a lot the night before the flight. At 3:00 am on December 23, 2009, we got into the cab and went to Boryspil airport.
Cat registration for the flight at Boryspil airport
We found a local veterinarian in Boryspil and received an international certificate to take out our cat. Then we paid for the cat’s ticket at the KLM counter and hurried to check in. We were given boarding passes for both our flights, i.e. Kyiv-Amsterdam and Amsterdam-Calgary.
After registration, we had to go through the red customs corridor because we took out “fauna” - a cat with us. There were no significant issues there. After filling out the declaration form and answering the question: “Purpose of the visit” and giving the answer: “Personal, and here is a return ticket in a year”, we went to the border guards. We left the crate with the cat to the airport employee, who swore that we would receive our pet safe and sound in the city of destination - Calgary.
We felt terrible about leaving our cat in the baggage compartment. Still, we could do nothing about that because the airline didn’t allow pets in the main cabin. The border guards did not have any questions, and after checking our passports, they allowed us to the gates. We couldn’t believe everything went so smoothly with Ukrainian officials. I have read many reviews about customs and border guards in Boryspil who, seeing an immigration visa, start to “put a spoke in the wheel”. In our case, everything went quickly, and without any problems from the officials.
The Kyiv-Amsterdam flight was easygoing, and the service was at the level of UIA (not good and not bad). Several times, I asked the flight attendant about the temperature in the baggage compartment, explaining that we had a cat in there and I was worried. The lady was not very friendly and assured us that “nothing will happen to your cat”. So, we could only guess how he was doing.
Transfer in Amsterdam
We spent 4 hours between flights in Amsterdam, walking around the various shops at Schiphol Airport. Then, before boarding the plane bound for Calgary, we went through another security check.
The flight Amsterdam-Calgary was much better in comparison to the previous flight. The level of service and food (we were fed 2 times, plus 2 more times they brought all kinds of snacks - ice cream, chips, etc.) can be described as outstanding. Everything was just A+. The flight attendant was charming, and when I asked about the cat, she said with a smile: “I’ve never had cats, so I don’t know how to take care of them. The temperature in the luggage compartment is maintained at +21C. Pilots ask if this is normal for your cat or if something needs to be changed.” That’s the difference between the two flight attendants.
The flight lasted about 9 hours, and it was as if we were flying back in time. Departing at 1430 (2:30pm) Dutch time, we arrived at 1550 (3:50pm) Calgary time the same day.
Arrival in Calgary
When we started approaching Calgary, we didn’t see any mountains, only farmers' fields. I read a lot about the city’s close proximity to the mountains and was discouraged when I didn’t see them. However, we approached the town from the northeast, and the mountains are in the southwest. So I figured we would see them eventually.
We had a soft landing, waited for passengers from the first class while they were exiting first, and after that, left the plane. Then, we walked through the tunnel with welcoming posters, like “Welcome to Calgary!” and another “You still have to walk about 5 minutes to the border guards, and in 20 minutes you can reach the downtown of Calgary” or another “You have 4 minutes left to walk to the border guards, and in 1.5 hours you can reach the wonderful ski resorts”, etc.
Airport employees in red shirts and cowboy hats drove down the corridors in golf carts, offering senior people a ride to border guards. We did not count ourselves among the seniors, so we proudly carried our hand luggage. But those corridors could be made shorter. There was a short line near the border guards, and after waiting a few minutes, we approached the counter.
The border guard asked us questions like “How did you get here, how are you feeling, etc.,” said “Welcome to Canada,” and pointed to the immigration officer. There was practically no line at the next stop. Here we were asked numerous questions. The officer reviewed the immigration papers and crossed out the one-way visas to Canada in our passports. The officer said that from this moment, we are permanent residents of Canada and must obey the laws of the country. She also promised we would receive our PR cards by mail within a month. These cards are a multiple entry visa to Canada if we want to leave the country. She said goodbye, “Welcome to Canada,” and we went out to the baggage carousels.
Our bags stood alone near the carousel. Apparently, the airport staff had taken them off the conveyor belt. A crate with our cat stood near our bags. We were pleased to see him safe and sound. He heroically survived this trip, which was not easy for him. We took our cat and our belongings and went to customs. The customs officer glanced at our bags and turned her attention to the cat. She chatted with him, asked his name, how he liked the flight, and so on. At the same time, she was filling out some papers. Later it turned out that the documents were for the cat. I paid the fee for the cat - $30. After hearing the familiar “Welcome to Canada,” we headed to the exit.
In summary, we spent about 20-30 minutes with Canadian officials who checked our documents and bags and issued our first document - PR cards. Everything is so simple, with a smile and without stress. We were happy that all the formalities passed quickly. Then, we went to the nearest chairs in the waiting area and contacted our friend who would pick us up from the airport. We also found free internet at the airport. After buying coffee, we started texting our relatives that everything was OK, and we safely landed in Calgary.
I think that is enough for the first part. I will write about the first days in Calgary next. Stay tuned!