Well-travelled family settling into NOTL, a carefully chosen permanent home
On any given day, Niagara-on-the-Lake welcomes people from all over the world. In August of 2018, we opened our arms to a family from Belarus and Algeria, by way of Bahrain.
Aksana Kavaliova-Moussi, her husband Lakhdar Moussi, and their eight-and-a-half-year-old daughter Elina proudly joined our community six months ago, choosing NOTL over Melbourne, Australia. “This is the closest place to paradise I’ve found,” says Moussi, who discovered our pretty little town on a drive 30 years ago, and kept it tucked away in his heart for the appropriate time.
The international finance and insurance consultant has lived all over the world, including in Paris, Toronto, and Montreal — but when it came time to choose a place to retire with his family, “I didn’t take time for a second thought,” he says. “This is a place where there is something special. To start with, the human dimension: people will say good morning.”
“It’s very personable,” agrees Kavaliova-Moussi. “You go to the bank, and they talk as if they have known you for years.”
Life in Bahrain, where Moussi was stationed on a professional assignment, had its ups and downs. “Bahrain is a very open society,” he says. “You live your own way, women can drive, there are restaurants, discos, every style of life; it’s not constrained like other Middle Eastern countries.” But the summers are excruciatingly hot, and it was time for a change.
Young Elina, for one, is enamoured with local life. “It’s better here than Bahrain,” she says giddily. “I like the snow and ice skating. I like to go to Simcoe Park; get ice cream at Cow’s, and go biking with my friends.” She’s a well-travelled and very busy young lady, taking skating lessons, as well as acro dance (with precision acrobatic elements), piano lessons, choir, Yellow Door Theatre classes, Russian dancing, and orchestra at school. And, “I love the library,” says the energetic girl.
Kavaliova-Moussi is a music therapist, working with people on the autism spectrum, and in palliative care. She is in the process of completing her second degree, a Masters in counselling psychology, and is currently working in a placement at the Attachment and Trauma Treatment Centre for Healing in St. Catharines.
“You know what, I have a bit of a split personality: I’m a musician in my heart,” she says. “But what else can I do? The hours aren’t easy for musical therapy. So I’m going into counselling.”
Born in Belarus, she found herself travelling the world after a chance encounter. The couple laugh describing how they met, Moussi calling it “one of the hazards of life.”
“We criss-crossed in the Istanbul airport. We exchanged phone numbers and didn’t think much of it,” he explains. They began to phone one another, and thus began a relationship that has now lasted 19 years. “He invited me to move from Belarus to Bahrain,” she says. “That was it.”
While they haven’t had much time to build a social network and settle into local life, Audrey Wright, their realtor, has become a good friend. “You have to be a bit of a psychologist to be a realtor,” says Kavaliova-Moussi, suggesting a point in common for the two women. She has joined the local newcomers club, but the working mother and student finds she has little time for the activities on offer, despite their seeming appeal.
Moussi find himself working more than he anticipated, but looks forward to some down time for socializing soon. “As a newcomer you have to build up the social network — it takes time,” he says. “It’s not a hurdle, you just need to take the time. I will eventually integrate into society in a smooth manner. I’m not a drinker and I’m lazy.” He laughs. “I might play golf — very slowly.”
One of the consultant’s dreams has been to become a pilot, so perhaps you’ll look up and see him one day. In the meantime, Kavaliova-Moussi says, “NOTL is so unique in how close it is to nature — we drive to the lakeshore to snap pictures because it is so beautiful. And Miss Elina needs her pizza every week from Bistro 61.”