Ukrainian newcomers assess options in Canada 1 year later

Toronto –

Yuliia Kleban remembers being woken up on February 24, 2022 by a message from her manager that Russia had launched an invasion of her country.

Minutes later, Klevan heard air raid sirens in his former Ukrainian city of Lviv.

“It was a tough day,” she said in a recent interview.

Klevan is one of more than 150,000 Ukrainians who left for Canada under a special program announced after the conflict began.

As the war enters its second year, many of these newcomers wonder whether they should focus on establishing a life in Canada, hope to one day return to Ukraine, or move to another country entirely. I am considering.

For Klevan, Canada is currently the most attractive.

“For my future and my family…for my future children, it is better to be in a safer country,” she said. Because there will always be an eastern neighbor who wishes not to exist.”

The 37-year-old decided to apply to come to Canada to stay with her extended family in Barry, Ontario, when Ottawa announced a special visa program for Ukrainians last March. rice field.

She spent about two months in the Czech Republic and four months in the UK awaiting a Canadian visa before arriving in Canada in September. Her husband of 40 years could not accompany her due to Ukraine’s General Mobilization Law, which prohibits men aged 18 to leave the country.

Kleban, who was the director of the IT and business analytics program at the Catholic University of Ukraine, said he moved to Toronto about two months ago to work as a project manager for a program that helps Ukrainian newcomers find jobs. Told.

She feels safe in Canada, but worried about her loved ones in Ukraine.

“I am warmly welcomed by the people here in this country.” She added that she hopes her husband will eventually get the chance to join her.

“Everyone has been very supportive and trying to use empathy as much as possible to understand the current situation of the Ukrainians in the ongoing war.”

Ukrainian newcomers are trying to figure out which path will work best for them in the future, said Ihor Mikhalchishin, executive director of the Congress of Ukrainian Canadians, the non-profit umbrella organization for Ukrainian Canadians. Told.

“People are trying to understand their options,” he said.

“People fled a year ago and I thought they could come back in a few weeks, but it turned into months and now it’s been a year, right? increase.”

Michalchyshyn said Ukrainians in Canada will gather for a vigil, march and demonstration on Friday night to mark the first anniversary of the war.

The war had a major impact on the Canadian community in Ukraine. Many of our members, including those who have lived in Canada for decades, still have families in Ukraine.

“Most of us have family ties, direct family ties, or have been to Ukraine, understood it, been there, seen it, touched it.” It’s shocking to see the outrageous violence.”

According to the 2016 Census, approximately 1.4 million people, or 4% of Canada’s population, have at least one ethnic Ukrainian descent.

Ukrainian Canadians have donated more than $50 million to help the Ukrainian people and are also working hard to help settle Ukrainian newcomers fleeing the war, Michalchyshyn said. .

“More and more people are arriving. They don’t know anyone. They don’t know anything about Canada,” he said.

“In Canada, finding childcare is very difficult for everyone. Finding affordable housing for everyone in Canada is very difficult, so they face the same challenge.” .”

The federal government will provide temporary visas and three-year work permits to Ukrainians fleeing the war, with a one-time payment of $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child, plus two weeks for those in need. offers hotel stays.

Immigration spokesman Stuart Isherwood said Ottawa is working closely with state, territory and local authorities to assist new arrivals from Ukraine.

Ukrainians arriving on temporary visas, as well as Ukrainian temporary residents who were in Canada when the war broke out, can access settlement services normally only available to permanent residents, Isherwood said. Ottawa has also launched an online portal for Canadian businesses to offer priority goods and services to help Ukrainians and organizations providing aid in Canada, he said.

“We will also continue to work with settlement organizations and (non-governmental organizations) across the country to assist Ukrainians and their families before, during and after their arrival in Canada,” he said.

“[Immigration Service]continues to evaluate how immigration programs can support Ukrainian citizens now and in the future, including potential new avenues for permanent residence.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on February 22, 2023.

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