A pop-up store is providing free clothing to displaced Ukrainians who are calling Edmonton home.
The Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers, located at 10137 104 St., collects toiletries and new and gently used clothing donations to help provide wardrobes to those displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“This is an opportunity for them not to receive a bag of donations but choose what they need,” said Janice Krissa-Moore, store coordinator.
On Saturday, moms were given Mother’s Day gift bags filled with items from local stores and gift cards.
The store opened two weeks ago and has been overrun by donations, Krissa-Moore said.
“Our biggest challenge, which is a good problem to have, is the influx of donations. There’s been an awful lot of donations,” she added.
For the time being, Krissa-Moore said the store is not accepting any clothing donations, but is still looking for new socks, underwear, toiletries, and slippers as well as toys for kids.
Krissa-Moore said she was surprised to see the outpouring of community support, including how many Ukrainian newcomers are volunteering at the store themselves.
“It has been incredible,” Krissa-Moore said. “It’s just been unbelievable to be able to help (newcomers).”
Anastasiia Klymenko is one of those customers turned volunteers. She arrived in Edmonton on Tuesday and is already starting to adjust to life in Edmonton.
For her, the store represents a way to continue to connect with her roots.
“When I came here to Canada, I was so happy to see that we have this kind of initiative here, this free store for Ukrainians, so I could continue to help my people here,” she said.
“I am blessed to be here,” she added. “People here are so great and nice, but at the same time, I feel so guilty because a lot of my friends are still in Ukraine. My mom and granny, they are still in Kyiv.”
Klymenko lived in Kyiv and fled the capital city of Ukraine on the second day of the conflict, but got trapped in a traffic jam.
“It was okay at first,” she told CTV News Edmonton. “But after a few days, our village where we stayed was occupied by Russian troops. We lived for two weeks without electricity, gas, and warm water.”
“We just put signs on our cars saying there’s kids inside and hung white flags,” Klymenko said. “It took us two days to get to the Lviv region. Normally it takes about six hours to get there, but it took us two days because there was a lack of gas.”
Anastasiia Klymenko is one of many Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers customers that turn into volunteers (CTV News Edmonton/Alison MacKinnon).
She stayed in Warsaw, Poland, for a month as she waited for her visa and passport. While there, she volunteered at a train station to help as a translator and guide other displaced Ukrainians.
Klymenko says she plans to stay in Canada and continue volunteering until the conflict is over.
“I am so surprised that here we have a lot of Ukrainians and people who have Ukrainian roots,” Klymenko said. “It starts to feel like home here.
“It doesn’t matter where you live physically. What matters is the people who surround you.”
For more information, to donate, or to volunteer, visit the Free Store for Ukrainian Newcomers Facebook page.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Alison MacKinnon
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