Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

I love the city when it’s still asleep on Sunday mornings”

foto: Jantine Albers

In 2004 at the age of twenty, Karina took a training course at the YMCA (an international non-profit organisation aimed at young people). The Dutchman who would later become her husband was there too. “We really got together during the second training course in Belgium. We started travelling, until he proposed to me in 2007 and I finally moved to the Netherlands in 2008.” Karina thinks it was a logical move. “I was the one with a thirst for change; he’d already been to Australia for a year. And I always knew that I wanted to travel and live abroad.” Her biggest disappointment on moving to the Netherlands was all the bread the Dutch eat. “In my second week here, I said to my husband: ‘If you make me one more sandwich, I’ll throw it at you.’” Karina laughs. A sandwich isn’t considered to be a proper lunch in Latvia.

Karina arrived in the Netherlands without a clear plan, but she soon found work at an international company. She spent six years travelling around Europe organising events. In 2014, it all became too much. “I had a burn-out and it was a dreadful year for me, but I’m glad it happened. I spent a lot of time thinking and saw things in a new perspective. What’s the point of my life, what is really important to me? I wanted to focus more on my family”, says Karina.

Karina and her husband had their first child soon after they married. “I was young and didn’t know much about being pregnant, but I loved it. I had an immediate deep bond with the baby in my womb and relished every single kick.” The birth wasn’t as she’d hoped and she would have liked more help. Karina read up on pregnancy and birth before her second baby arrived, so that she would be in a better position to say what she wanted. “I wanted a home birth, that felt safe. I was very relaxed thanks to hypno-birthing.” Unfortunately, the birth didn’t go according to plan and she again realised how important it is to have the right help during labour. But the birth of her third child, shortly after her burn-out, was fantastic. “It was the icing on the cake. I had a home birth, in a birthing pool in my living room, using deep relaxation techniques. My five-year-old daughter was there too, making it an extra special moment.”

This time, Karina was attended by a midwife and a doula (a pregnancy and birthing coach). Karina decided to teach hypno-birthing herself, and a little later, everything fell into place: she would train as a doula. In 2016, she and her colleague Paulina Glapinski-Zoethout started organising informal meet-ups for mothers: the Zwangercafé. “It’s my mission to build up parents’ confidence about giving birth, so that they feel confident about parenting and are able to raise happy, confident children.”

Karina is fully integrated into Dutch society. “I didn’t venture out my own world much at first. I had no real friends, aside from neighbours and colleagues.” Her social circle of friends and fellow-mothers has now grown considerably. She enjoys living in Utrecht and is particularly pleased that her children can grow up here. Going for a walk on Sunday mornings, after mass, is one of her favourite moments in the week. “I love the city when it’s still asleep on Sunday mornings.” Although the Dutch countryside isn’t a patch on the raw natural landscape of Latvia, Karina would definitely miss Utrecht if she were to leave.

Name: Karina Vos
Place of birth: Riga, Latvia
Date of birth: 3 July 1984
Motto: ‘Love and kindness form the bridge between you and other people’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

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