Vopnafjörður feels like home
Gulmira Kanakova is 33 years old, comes from Crimea and has lived in Iceland since 2011. She lives in Vopnafjörður now and works at a nursery school. Although it was a big step for her to move to Iceland she decided to be open to all possibilities.
Gulmira first came to Iceland as an Au Pair and never planned to stay for more than a year. But she loved the country and made a decision to live in Iceland and become an Icelander. “I loved the country , the nature and the people. I found my hobbies (which I didn’t do back home), like doing yoga, that became big part of my life, dancing salsa, Zumba, and I met my love at that time, so all of that became my reasons to stay here.”
She stayed in Reykjavík for eight years but then moved to the East with her partner whose parents are from Vopnafjörður. Gulmira works at the nursery school but has also been doing zumba training for children and feels like she has become a part of the community, somewhat through the language:
„In Reykjavík I could switch to English when I thought it was necessary but not so much in Vopnafjörður,“ she remarks. „I never use English here unless I am talking to friends from abroad. Other than that I only speak Icelandic. Of course it’s a difficult language, but after I decided to stay here it became my goal in order to become part of society and show my respect for the people and for the country. The moment I started to speak the tongue I realized I didn‘t feel like a foreigner anymore.“
She says that it feels a little bit like being back home in Vopnafjörður. „Yes, in some ways it is very similar,“ she says. „It‘s an open community, you can call your neighbour for a favour or invite him over for a coffee, people plan things together and are friendly. I never felt this in Reykjavík. There I didn‘t know my neigbour‘s names! And everything is very personal here: If you need information for instance from banks, hospitals or whatever I find it really easy just to ask people and ask them again if I don‘t understand. I never get the impression that people are annoyed with my questioning!“
Since coming to the east she has taken up new hobbies, busy becoming an active part of the community. “When I came here I was open to everything and I kept myself busy. I started to teach Zumba, do hiking and play badminton. In Reykjavik I did Yoga Teacher training, so I’ve been teaching there for about 5 years, and it is in my plan to put it in use in Vopnafjörður as well. In a way adapting to a new society is a question of your own responsibility. If you are, as a person, open to people they will open themselves as well, because I believe that a relationship is like a mirror. Be nice to people and they will be nice to you!“
This article was first published in a special edition of Austurglugginn dedicated to the foreign-born residents of Austurland // Greinin birtist upphaflega í sérstakri útgáfu Austurgluggans sem unnin var í samstarfi við Austurbrú þar sem fjallað var um málefni fólks af erlendum uppruna á Austurlandi.