Inspiring Others Will Be Her Legacy

Eva HadzimaEva Hadzima’s story is one of tremendous effort, passion, commitment and struggle. A veterinarian trained in Slovakia, she has extensive credentials but her 13 year journey in Canada has not been easy.

Before Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004, large numbers of farm animals were slaughtered to comply with protocols on health issues such as BSE. In response, work for veterinarians became scarce.

Eva, and her now husband Maros (also a vet), explored which English-speaking country to immigrate to. With guidance from friends and referring to her father’s antique illustrated map of Canada the couple chose Calgary. “We wanted mountains and animals,” says Eva. “And from what we could tell, Calgary would suit us.”

The couple arrived knowing no one. They had $10,000 in cash and two backpacks of books and on a cold November day they took a cab from the airport to a hotel. For the next ten days they struggled to convince any landlord to rent to them as they had no history in Canada and no references.

“After six refusals I begged a landlord to accept us by prepaying six months’ rent,” says Eva. “Then the very same day we hunted for jobs,” says Eva. “Many people wouldn’t consider us as we had so many qualifications. But we wanted any kind of work so we could get started in Canada.” Eva was eventually hired by a dog groomer. “But—because I had ‘noexperience’ they only let me bath them,” laughs Eva. “But at least I was working with animals.”

Eva soon secured a position as a technician working with animals at the University of Calgary and the couple attended evening classes to improve their already good English language skills. However, it took several years to complete the necessary exams to establish their veterinarian credentials in Canada. “I call it ‘the six bloody years’,” says Eva, referring to the intense time and effort it took to complete English exams, core licensing and practical examinations.

With a $5,000 loan from IAF for half of the cost of the practical exam fees, Eva traveled to Oklahoma State University where for a week her skills were tested. “In Canada it was a three year wait to take the practical exams and I just couldn’t wait any longer to work in my profession,” says Eva. “And I was really thrilled that IAF would lend me this money. Nobody else in Canada had given us anything and this felt wonderful. It let me focus on my goal.”

From 2006, the couple both worked as locum veterinarians for more than 60 clinics in Calgary. In 2008 they opened their own practice in DeWinton, Alberta, where Eva is finally focused on her exotic animal practice. It’s her area of specialty and one she speaks and writes about internationally.

“I want to be an inspiration to others,” says Eva. “I would tell other immigrants—don’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Now I am working in my profession that is truly my dream job; we have two beautiful children. Now, we are happy.”


Every year, IAF helps hundreds of immigrants by providing loans to help them pay for the licensing or training they need to work in their field in Canada. Now more than ever Canada’s newcomers need our help. Please consider a donation to IAF today.