From the rubble of war-torn Ukraine to the warmth of a welcoming Canadian community, Oksana has found hope and a new life despite unimaginable adversity.
Oksana previously lived in Mariupol, Ukraine with her husband and six children ranging from four to seventeen. Her husband, Mykola, worked as an electrician and she worked in transportation.
“We had everything for a normal life in our hometown – friends, relatives, house, church, and jobs. We were happy and were seeing how our city was changing for the better. It was a complete shock to us when Russia had attacked Ukraine. We were completely unprepared for what happened in 2022,” recalls Oksana.
Russia’s invasion involved dozens of missile strikes on cities all over Ukraine starting in February 2022. Oksana’s former life was over and her family was suddenly in great danger.
“The shelling did not stop day and night. And planes flew over our house, and then we heard explosions. It was terrible.”
After a few days with no electricity, water or heat in their home, Oksana made the brave and difficult decision to move herself, her husband, her mother and six children to Germany to apply for a visa to come to Canada.
“We chose Canada because it’s a favorable country for immigration, with a large Ukrainian diaspora and a high level of security. That was really important for us,” said Oksana.
Oksana knew very little English when she came to Canada in September 2022 and Mykola had no experience with speaking English, which made their integration into Canadian society a struggle when they first arrived.
Archway welcomed Oksana and Mykola to Abbotsford, providing support on how to access the Food Bank, how to cook Canadian meals, and helping them get their children enrolled in school.
Oksana could not believe the support her family received from the community. In particular, she wants to thank MCC, the Abbotsford School District, and Archway. Their collective efforts became the pillars of strength that lifted Oksana and her family from the depths of uncertainty to the promise of a new beginning.
Oksana and Mykolas family.
“I really see a future for my family in Canada because we can work, we have access to education – my children are excited to go to school – and there is a peaceful sky above our heads.”
Anna and Oksana at Archway
“One of the biggest challenges that we have when coming to Canada is the struggle of having not chosen this life. We run from the death, from the war and there’s no time to prepare for this moving.”
“I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who helped us, because without them it was impossible to stay here,” said Oksana.
Oksana and Mykola were enrolled in Archway’s Language Instruction for Newcomers classes. Her English has improved allowing her to work at a local store in Abbotsford.
Through Archway, Oksana was paired with Anna Tykhonchenko, Archway’s Ukrainian Settlement Worker, who worked with her to help her adapt to Canadian society.
Anna started working at Archway in 2022. She helps Ukrainian refugees navigate their new life, access available services and find ways to support themselves. Having fled Ukraine herself in March 2022, Anna is able to relate to her clients and assess their unique needs.
“One of the biggest challenges that we have when coming to Canada is the struggle of having not chosen this life. We run from the death, from the war and there’s no time to prepare for this moving,” said Anna.
Displaced Ukrainians have had their hopes, plans, and properties destroyed and must build new lives in unfamiliar countries.
“You just think about how to save your life, how to save your children, and that’s all,” said Anna.
Anna is grateful to have the chance to help people through her work at Archway. It’s healing for her when she sees them succeed and she feels inspired by and hopeful for her clients, like Oksana.
“Archway did good things for us. They helped in placement for my children for school, various seminars for adaptation and how to search for jobs,” remembers Oksana in the early days of her arrival to Abbotsford.
“I’d like to thank Anna for her consultation. Whenever I had a question, I could just call her and she’d always help whenever I needed it,” said Oksana.
Pleasantly surprised by how welcoming Canadians have been towards them, Oksana and Mykola plan to stay in Canada and apply for permanent residency.
“I really see a future for my family in Canada because we can work, we have access to education – my children are excited to go to school – and there is a peaceful sky above our heads,” said Oksana.
“I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone who helped us, because without them it was impossible to stay here.”