Dozens of Edmonton families are opening up their homes and their hearts to people fleeing the war in Ukraine. Marni Panas and her son Alex are among them.
“When the invasion started in Ukraine, being Ukrainian-Canadians ourselves, it was very personal for us and we thought, ‘How do we help people that are 6,000 kilometres away?,” Panas said.
Soon after, she contacted Ukrainian Canadian Social Services and applied to be a host for families seeking refuge.
Their guests arrived just in time for Easter, six days ago.
“They said, ‘We’ve got two people who just landed at the Edmonton airport who need a home tomorrow. We’re bringing them by at noon,’” Panas explained.
“Our lives changed completely in 12 hours. We scrambled to find beds, bedding and supplies. Then they came into our home and it’s like we’ve never been strangers.”
Volodymyr Bril and his mother Iryna left their home, Ternopil, in western Ukraine nearly one month ago.
“We were under stress too much and we saw rockets flying, and these airplanes always in the air,” Bril said.
Getting here wasn’t easy for the Brils, first fleeing to Poland, then Paris, then Montreal.
They chose Edmonton because of the strong Ukrainian community. Their first impressions?
“It’s clean here. Many kind, good people. It’s a huge city. The climate is totally different, but it’s ok. We feel that here is safe.”
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At first, the idea of sharing a home with people they’ve never met was nerve-wracking for the Panas family, but just six day later the Brils are already family.
“You follow your heart — we knew this was the right thing to do. We needed to do something. We have a home to offer, we have safety to offer, we have food to offer,” Panas said.
“What they are doing is something special. Thank you, thank you all of you,” Bril added.
Meanwhile, Bril is hoping to find work. Anyone with an opportunity is asked to email him.
“I’m applying for different jobs, it could be sales, IT sales, it could be customer service,” he said, adding he speaks multiple languages.
As for how long the Brils will stay? The war will determine that. For now, their home in Ternopil hasn’t been attacked by Russia, but the Brils say that could change.
But they’ll always have a key to the Panas home.
“They are welcome to stay here as long as they need a home,” Panas said.
More host families are needed in Edmonton. To get involved contact Ukrainian Canadian Social Services at firstname.lastname@example.org
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