Their home is Dnipro, but when they’ll see it again, no one can say.
In the early days of the Russian invasion, Aleksandr Buhaienko, his wife Kateryna and children Andrii, Mykola, Olena and Bohdan travelled west in Ukraine, eventually landing in Warsaw, Poland. With the surge of refugees finding their way to that country, the financial system was unable to accommodate their growing requests to convert Ukrainian currency to Polish money, making daily life more challenging. There was pressure to move on.
With passable English, Aleksandr decided to explore English-speaking options abroad. Job opportunities were more plentiful in Canada, so it rose to the top of the list. Travel documents were challenging to obtain, so the departure date of flights booked to Canada came and went. Finally documents were received, flights rescheduled, and the family arrived at Pearson Airport mid- May, scooped up and delivered to a family home in Millbrook. With big hearts and a big house, hosts Kate Segriff-Field and Brian Field welcomed the family into their home which has a sprawling backyard with inground pool. It’s a long way from the hostel in Warsaw.
There are several organizations offering help to those looking to offer temporary homes to Ukrainian refugees. The Ukrainian Diaspora Support Canada (uadsc.org) based in Ottawa offers a wide range of services and provide matchmaker services, helping pair families with hosts. Another option, icanhelphost.org, is a more informal venue, where individuals make their own matches directly. Ukrainians describe themselves, provide photos and indicate what they are looking for in terms of accommodation (pets are common) and potential hosts describe their accommodations and how many people they are willing to receive. The hosts are identified on an international map, helping refugees select the location. A full list of hosting sources and other resources is available on the New Canadians Centre website, www.nccpeterborough.ca.
At the moment, there is not a lot of government support for those arriving from Ukraine as they are not officially refugees. Rumour has it a new federal program will be launched in the next few days.
Upon arrival, families are exhausted and traumatized and many speak little or no English. Google translate can help with basic communication, but language skills are key to settling in, even for a short stay. The New Canadians Centre provides many resources- including mental health supports, employment programs, English language training and limited financial support.
An experienced software engineer, Aleksandr has already had a job interview with Enbridge in Toronto where he hopes to start soon. Thanks to help from Kate, the family is on top of the administrative documents we take for granted- Social insurance numbers, OHIP, and even a Driver’s License. The three school-age children are already enrolled at Millbrook South Cavan and are quickly picking up English, and next week Kateryna starts English lessons.
It will take a while for communication to flow easily between the new arrivals and their new community. What could possibly help them is the arrival of other refugee families where a common background might help them in their transition. That help is on the way. Kate continues to receive requests from Ukrainians wanting to come here, and has connected another family to a Millbrook host. That family arrives today. There are many more like them, waiting to find a temporary safe haven. KG