Gold Medal Award Recipient - Cristina Pastia

Cristina Pastia's Story

In September 2009, when I was 20 years old, my parents left for an intended three week vacation to Romania but never returned.  According to the local law enforcement in Bucharest, my mother was murdered and my father committed suicide.  This was especially surprising considering my parents had no history of abuse, marital problems, or any of the other expected instigators to suggest anything other than a happy relationship. As an only child, it was incumbent upon me to manage the funeral arrangements and post-death obligations (e.g. cremation, documentation, carrying out their wills).  In addition to the personal matters and handling the affairs between both countries, there were constant battles with the Romanian authorities over matters as basic as providing a written statement.  The acute cultural and procedural discrepancies between Canada and Romania only compounded the situation. To be frank, I felt hurt, powerless and disappointed by how the authorities handled the investigation as well as the endless bureaucracy.  With limited guidance and no relatives nearby, I learned how to adapt and function as an adult in a very short period of time.  I had only friends to rely on and even then, grateful as I am for their support, I am ultimately responsible for coping and trying to make the best of an adverse situation.

I continued my education for another two terms and soon became a volunteer at Women Against Violence Against Women (WAVAW) Rape Crisis Centre. From January 2010 until June 2012, I acted as a support worker on the crisis line and performed administrative office duties.  Although I was originally accepted into the Fall 2010 honours program, I opted to postpone it for a year. Due to bureaucratic issues, I was initially unable to manage some of the details (e.g., selling my parents’ apartment).  Now my honours thesis is in the final stages of completion and I have been accepted into the graduate program in the School of Criminology.  I am now involved with and will be volunteering at B.C. Victims of Homicide; I want to use my own experience to advocate for and support other victims. Prior to the Fall of 2009, I had hoped to attend law school; however, this ambition has changed.  Upon obtaining my Master’s degree, I plan to pursue a career as a victim service worker.

In part, my motivation to partake in the honours program, graduate school, and victim services is attributable to my parents – both in life and death. The experience at WAVAW, my parents’ deaths, as well as volunteering at a transition house years prior, have fostered my ability to relate and convey understanding and practical support.  Accordingly, due to my personal history and involvement with the aforementioned organizations, I have been inspired to support people in similar situations.  I want to provide others the assistance and instrumental resources that were not available to me in the aftermath of my parents’ deaths.  As shocking and distressing as the events still are, one of the few benefits that emerged was the capability to become a more effective support worker.

Even to this day, some of the most challenging matters are the ordinary day-to-day activities.  Given the abrupt deaths of my parents and the circumstances surrounding them, I have come to realize this will forever be a part of who I am and who I will become. This, however, does not constitute an excuse to forfeit but instead incites the opposite: a desire to provide others with help and support.  The majority of my strength comes from the support of my friends, mentors, and professors at Simon Fraser University, without whom my perseverance would certainly have wavered.  Although my parents are no longer at my side, the love, guidance, humility, and encouragement they have instilled in me over the years remain – inspiring me to work harder, strive higher, and contribute to a brighter tomorrow.

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