As anniversary approaches, Ukrainians escaping war continue settling into Manitoba

As the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches, thousands of Ukrainian refugees continue the process of settling into a new home in Manitoba.

Joan Lewandosky of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) told Global News that while it’s difficult to pin down an exact number, the organization’s hub for new arrivals, based out of the Best Western hotel near Winnipeg’s airport, has recorded at least 16,500 visits from displaced Ukrainians touching down in Manitoba.

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“We’re running in the thousands,” Lewandosky said.

“Manitoba has been extremely welcoming. A lot of people have gone into rural Manitoba —  we have people as far as Churchill, Dauphin, Brandon, Steinbach… they are in almost every small community.”

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Part of that welcoming spirit, she said, is due to the province’s large existing Ukrainian community stepping up to help the newcomers.

“Per capita, Manitoba has the most Ukrainians. Every seventh person is Ukrainian and takes pride in it.”

Lewandosky said efforts to resettle Ukrainians here began at the beginning of the war, and the UCC has seen a lot of success through its volunteer-driven efforts.

“I’m extremely proud of the work we’re doing. It isn’t easy, but we’re working together and we’re helping people.”

Click to play video: 'Leaving Ukraine and adjusting to life in Canada'

Leaving Ukraine and adjusting to life in Canada

For student Nazariy Chychevych, the transition to a life on the Canadian prairies hasn’t been without difficulty, but he — along with his mother and two brothers — has been able to make the adjustment, despite his father staying behind in Ukraine.

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“I’m adjusting really well and quick, but it was still hard (at first) for my mom and my brothers,” he said.

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“But they’re doing quite well now. My mother has a job, my brothers are going to school or daycare. I have an internship at the Ukranian Canadian Congress, because I’m still technically a student.”

Chychevych said he had always intended to visit Canada — one day — as his mother, an English teacher back in Ukraine, had lived in the country as a student… but he never expected the circumstances that brought him to Manitoba.

“It’s actually crazy to think about it. I never expected the war to happen.

“For now I want to finish my studies, I want to stay here with my family, but we’ll see. Maybe an opportunity will come up. Maybe we’ll be able to go back to Ukraine. We’ll see what happens.”

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Nadiia Sova, who arrived in Winnipeg five months ago with her two sons, said it’s been a difficult time for her family — her husband also remains behind in Ukraine — but they’re making the best of it.

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When war broke out, she said she initially fled to Romania, and after returning home in hopes the situation had improved, made the decision to come to Canada.

“After returning back home, I realized I just couldn’t let my kids go to school when it’s just not safe,” she said.

“It is quite difficult after such a long stress … you can suffer from stomach pain, which I’m experiencing right now. It’s not easy.”

Sova said she was able to find a job after a single interview — something the UCC says it’s trying to help facilitate.

“We’re trying to help them resettle, we’re trying to help them get jobs,” Lewandosky said.

“We have over 60 companies that have come forward to ask for help in filling positions … and I have to say we have such positive accolades from these companies who have taken people and welcomed them even with minimal language skills.”

Click to play video: 'Ukrainian refugees mark first Orthodox Christmas in Manitoba'

Ukrainian refugees mark first Orthodox Christmas in Manitoba

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