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Future 40 finalist says new inner freedom helping her embrace transition to Manitoba Museum

As Dorota Blumczyńska prepares for the next step of her professional career, she reflects on how growing up as a newcomer in Canada and later learning how she got here have prepared her for this next phase of her life.

Taking over as museum CEO mostly about 'what I have survived on the inside,' says Dorota Blumczyńska

Dorota Blumczyńska immigrated to Canada with her family in 1989. She has worked for the Immigrant Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba for the past 13 years and will become CEO of the Manitoba Museum next month. (Rejean Brandt)

As Dorota Blumczyńska prepares for the next step of her professional career, she reflects on how growing up as a newcomer in Canada and later learning how she got here have prepared her for this next phase of her life.

Blumczyńska, a CBC Manitoba Future 40 finalist, is transitioning from the head of the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM) to being the new CEO of the Manitoba Museum, one of the province's largest cultural institutions.

As a speaker at last month's Future 40 Real Talk Leadership conference, Blumczyńska delivered a keynote speech that chronicled her journey as a newcomer, losing her mother, surviving the Child and Family Services system and finding out who she is as a person, and discussed how that is guiding her in moving to her new position.

"This moment isn't actually as much about, perhaps, what I've accomplished on the outside, but it is what I have risen against and what I have survived on the inside," she said during the conference, which was hosted virtually on March 27 at at Qaumajug, the new Inuit Art Centre that recently opened in Winnipeg.

"Leaving IRCOM does leave me to ask, 'Who am I if I am not this? Who am I if I am not here?' And the wonderful thing is that the answer is that I am still me — and I get to take me everywhere I go."

WATCH | Dorota Blumczyńska delivers keynote address

Dorota Blumczynska delivers keynote address

2 months ago
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Blumczyńska delivered a keynote speech telling her own story as a newcomer to Canada and finding out who she is at heart, and discussed how her new inner freedom is helping her through her transition into a new professional role. 12:13

Blumczyńska and her family arrived in Canada in 1989 as privately sponsored refugees. The first several years were difficult, as the family lived in poverty and isolation and was disillusioned about life in Canada, she said.

The education and credentials her parents had earned in their previous home were not recognized here. Blumczyńska and her siblings often had to identify where they came from and advocate for why they belonged in the community, she said.

Seven years after their arrival, Blumczyńska's mother died. Blumczyńska was 16. 

"It's a moment that I can tell you has marked my life, because there was the life when my mother was alive and then there was the life after, at 16 years old," she said. "It was a tremendous shock for me."

The family fell apart. Blumczyńska entered the Child and Family Services system, where she did what was needed to make it out.

Her upbringing and inconsistent narratives about how she came to Canada left Blumczyńska feeling like she didn't know herself. She carried on, earning an education and starting a career, but felt "fragmented" inside.

Eventually, she started digging into her history. Finally, a year ago, after filing to receive her immigration file from the Canadian government, the puzzle pieces of her past connected to form a clear image.

Blumczyńska started working at IRCOM in 2008 as an instructor in English as an additional language, quickly rising to head the organization and further help other newcomer families navigate their new lives in Manitoba.

But it wasn't until recently "that I have finally begun to live up to who I am," she said.

Blumczyńska believes it was all necessary to fully embrace and be prepared to take on her new role at the Manitoba Museum on May 3, she said.

The Future 40 Awards recognize 40 Manitobans who are 40 years old or younger and are professional and community leaders having an impact on the lives of Manitobans. Future 40 2020, the finalists of which were named in November of last year, was the fifth edition.

The conference held March 27 included panel discussions that explored the opportunities and barriers in various sectors, including business, education and the arts.

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