Refugee parents inspired me, says entrepreneur Agathe
In the early 1980s, with their first child on the way, Zbigniew and Krystyna Holowatinc purchased as much US currency as they could, and fled from Poland.
It was not an easy decision. They left behind family, friends, most of their belongings and “practically everything they earned” in Cieszyn, a small town in the south of the central European country.
The Holowatincs were placed in a refugee camp in Austria before they were finally able to make a new home in Canada, where Zbigniew changed his name to Peter as it was easier for people to pronounce.
Their daughter, Agathe, believes it shaped her into the person she is today: an author, private chef, “healthy-cooking masterclass instructor and wellness warrior”.
“The truth is, the spirit of my whole life has to do with these defining moments and the decision to flee Poland in search of a better life. Every day I live in a way that is rooted in this beginning.
“This is the context of my birth and it is the root of who I am. Crossing borders. Ascending. Making decisions that will honour what my parents gave me and that will honour the huge gift I have been given. Understanding that it could have all been different; so seeing every opportunity for the gift that it is.”
For 20 years she worked as a law librarian in various parts of the world. It eventually brought her to Bermuda where Ms Holowatinc decided to quit her job and make a career out of sharing the passion for wellness and food nutrition she had had since her early teens.
In 2017 she became a certified integrative nutrition health coach and co-founded a company, Fuelled Bermuda Ltd. Its aim is to inspire people to achieve “massive and measurable success” with their health and nutrition goals.
When invading Russian troops forced millions of Ukrainians to flee to other countries, she started wondering what life had been like for her parents.
“To be honest, the details of our leaving … it wasn't spoken about. I think many Polish people are like this because I didn’t hear any details from any of the Polish friends I have. It was more like we left and we moved on – this is our new future. We're present here. That was the attitude.
“But with the war in Ukraine, I started asking more questions. I found out a lot about my family, especially during Covid. We spent more time talking.”
The Russian threat of invasion, the massive job losses, the uprisings and the complete chaos that went on for years made her parents decide that their future and the future of their first-born lay elsewhere.
“For me it's just such a gift,” she said of the opportunities that have come her way because of their decision. “My parents were refugees, they left everything behind – and quickly. It's not like they had time to sell things. You don't take it for granted. And so I always thought, ‘How do I take advantage of this opportunity and this gift that I've been given – a life that is so much better than the life I could have had growing up in Poland.’
“Not that there's anything wrong with Poland but it was unstable for years and years and years. They were overthrowing communism – a huge political shift for a country – and I had such a calm childhood.”
Her focus became how to always “do my best” no matter what the hurdle.
“I'm always just making sure that I make the most of the gifts that I've been given. And it has everything to do with Fuelled, because you can't make the most of what you've been given if your physical body is completely exhausted.
“I always took care to make sure that the nutrition that I was doing, the exercise that I was doing …. even when I was working three jobs and doing university, I would still make sure I was having green smoothies and looking after myself.”
She plotted her steps alongside what she envisioned as an upwards pointing arrow, which she unwittingly used as the Fuelled logo.
“That's what Fuelled is all about, too. It's literally levelling up your life. You're not plateauing. You're not stagnant, you're not fulfilled. There's growth there. You're inviting challenges, you're pushing yourself, you're going forward in a good way and you're going for the things for you; not necessarily financial, but the best thing that levels you up as a human being on this planet.
“You can't go for good opportunities, you can't use all of your intelligence, you can't apply yourself to the highest extent if you are not fuelled.”
On visits back to Poland she realised how beautiful the country was but how exhausted the people were by all that had taken place.
“Your energy precedes you and to be honest, nutrition is 80 per cent of that. With vitamins coming into your body, you show up completely different; somebody who has oats for breakfast versus somebody who has a smoothie for breakfast with beets and berries and grapefruit, lime and prunes and maybe some super greens.”
After settling in Edmonton, Alberta, her parents had regularly welcomed family members from Poland that they had agreed to sponsor.
“It was constantly, ‘Your cousins are coming from Poland.’ But they never came from Poland. They always came from a refugee camp in Germany, in Greece, in Spain.
“You had to verify you could take care of the family if they were having hard financial times. It's not like we were loaded but we knew that they had trades. One of my father’s brothers was a mechanic – we knew we could get him a job as there was a big Polish community. Another brother was a painter. We had all our cousins with us and we all moved into the same neighbourhood, a bunch of low-income town houses.”
Through listening to her relatives’ conversations she worked out that they had all come to Canada in search of “a better life” than they would have in Poland.
“It wasn't like we sat around the table and we talked about the negative things. He made it nicer. My dad is so lovely. He has a big heart and he's very sensitive. So he didn't tell me.”
It was only by watching videos that Ms Holowatinc came to realise how “horrible” living in Poland was at that time.
“It was so unstable. I knew that there were food stamps and no food and things were getting worse and worse and worse but when you see the videos it was just like, wow, clearly I would leave too. But they don’t speak about the war.
“[For them it is] we left, let’s just not talk about things. Here we are. Life is all right. We’re making it work being present here. And I think that's not a bad thing.”
For more information visit fuelledlife.com. Agathe Holowatinc is also creator of The Energized Executive, a 16-week supercharged nutrition reset for high performance professionals. Join here: bit.ly/3IxtJvf