More than a month after Russia launched its first missiles at Ukraine on February 24, Olha Rudenko, 40, and her two children have begun to adjust to their new life in Canada after fleeing the city of Lutsk, in the west of the country.
While Rudenko and his sons, Lukian, nine, and Stanislav, 16, spent a month in Poland planning their trip to Ottawa, his sister, Natalia Stepaniuk, was back in Ottawa preparing for her family’s arrival. .
“You have to recognize that these are not regular immigrants,” Stepaniuk, 36, told Global News. “These are people who come from the war zone who are traumatized.”
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The Rudenkos arrived the last weekend in March after a stranger from Montreal bought them plane tickets. Stepaniuk, who moved to Canada ten years ago, met the stranger on a Facebook group dedicated to helping Ukrainians during the war.
“I am happy that my sister is safe in Ottawa with her children,” said Stepaniuk. “I am also very sad that they had to come in these circumstances. There is a lot of pain and a lot of anxiety too.
Now that the family is reunited, the first priority will be to organize school for Lukian and Stanislav while Rudenko tries to find work.
“I don’t want my sister to feed us and I want to work,” she says.
“I feel more comfortable here,” she added.
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As Rudenko and her children embark on their new journey to Canada, her husband has remained in Ukraine to join the civilian task force.
“He said it would be easier for him if we were safe,” she tearfully told Global News. “I made this trip for my children. It’s so painful.
On Vancouver Island, Brian and Sharon Holowaychuks are also gearing up to help Ukrainians coming to Canada by converting their 15,000 square foot vacation property into a refugee home.
Called the Ukrainian Shelter, the couple completed the remodel with the help of volunteers to accommodate refugees who are expected to arrive in April.
“My personal goal is 100 people,” Brian said. “We have 19 people booked to come in about two to three weeks.”
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Brian hopes the Ukrainian shelter can be a place to rest and feel safe for the refugees, who he says can stay as long as they need.
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So far the local community has shown an outpouring of support for the project, with volunteers and supporters coming to help or donate, Brian said. Stewart Johnston, a solicitor from Victoria, decided he wanted to help by registering the project as a no-cost non-profit.
“It’s a hugely important cause and I’m really impressed with what they’re doing to help,” Johnston said. “I wanted to help.”
The Holowaychuks bought the East Sooke compound, known as Grouse Nest, last year. It sits on a 33 hectare property surrounded by trees, wildlife and overlooking the waterfront.
“We are in a position, in a place, in a time where we could help make a small difference. And I thought, you know, it was time to stand up and be counted,” Brian said.
A couple sponsors a Ukrainian refugee family to move to Belleville, Ontario.
On Saturday, the Canadian government announced an additional $100 million in humanitarian aid to respond to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and neighboring countries.
With Saturday’s announcement, Canada has provided $245 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. Of this amount, $145 million was allocated to United Nations organizations, the Red Cross Movement and non-governmental organizations.
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser told reporters Saturday that Canada has already approved more than 30,000 applications under the Canada-Ukraine emergency travel authorization program.
In Belleville, Ont., residents Mark and Trish Hall aren’t sure when the Kupyniak family will arrive, but the couple are preparing for the day.
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Natalia and Yurii Kupyniak have three children aged 14, 6 and 10 months.
“They currently reside on the borders of Poland. They live in a farm, it’s a two-room apartment. It’s nothing like we’d ever know,” Trish Hall said, noting that the couple connected with the Kupyniaks through a website designed to connect refugees with hosts.
The Halls, along with other members of the community, have banded together to rent a full apartment for the family for next year.
Local businesses also help the family. Mama Duck’s diaper service will provide free diapers for their 10-month-old baby and Yurii Kupyniak will also have a job waiting for him when he arrives.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the Kupyniaks after they settle in Belleville, while other donations will be dropped off at Albert College’s parking lot, where a trailer will be set up to accept community contributions.
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Ukrainians arriving in Canada will be entitled to two weeks of temporary hotel accommodation and up to six weeks of income support, the Liberals have assured.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said his department was working with Canadian airlines to arrange charter flights, but details have not been finalized. Many affected Ukrainians are spread over a wide area and some are not yet ready to leave.
“No one should be forced to flee their homes and we are committed to helping Ukrainians who have had to leave their country because of this illegal war,” Alghabra said.
“As Canadians, we will do what we do best. We will stand up for Ukrainians and warmly welcome them as they adjust to new life here in their new country.
With files from Alaina Saint Amour of Global News, John Lawless and The Canadian Press
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