More than 300 Ukrainians who arrived in Winnipeg on Monday are now beginning the complex — if not more streamlined than usual — to settle after fleeing their homes amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
Nic Krawetz, a volunteer with the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress, has spent weeks helping Ukrainian newcomers adjust to life in Manitoba and preparing for more along the way.
“They have no home to return to, and they will start over here,” said Krawetz, who helped coordinate the UCC’s warm welcome to the new arrivals at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport on Monday.
“To see them, to see them smile, to see their children when they come out of the arrivals hall and are offered a hug and a welcome gift… It makes it all worth it.”
He says more than 700 Ukrainians have arrived since mid-April, including 328 who arrived on a charter flight from Poland on Monday. Krawetz said at least three more charter flights to Winnipeg are needed.
He said more than 240,000 Ukrainians have signed up to come to Canada and 30,000 have arrived across the country so far.
Krawetz said those who are already here have three main priorities: housing, jobs and childcare.
“Many of them really want to work because they want to support themselves and their relatives in Ukraine or those who have fled,” he said.
“Finding a job is absolutely crucial and it’s a lifeline not just for them, but for their entire family.”
Ukrainian newcomers stay at the provincially run Ukrainian refugee reception center in a hotel near the airport. There they have access to a range of settlement services, including employment, education, counseling, health care, housing, language and other services.
That’s in addition to the federal Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, which comes with a work visa that grants access to a provincial health card and other services.
The federal government also announced a temporary income support program on Monday. Starting next week, any Ukrainian newcomer who comes to Canada through CUAET will be eligible for $3,000 and $1,500 per child.
Experts who work with refugees say the concerted effort to bring Ukrainian newcomers to Canada and give them immediate access to so much support is unusual and holds great promise as a model for future refugee crises.
“Our industry is also a little more confident in how we can provide that other extra support now that basic income is in place at least,” said Emily Halldorson, Ukraine Response Coordinator at the Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving. organizations.
Halldorson said that despite all the government support, volunteers are still needed to help with translations and other tasks, including transportation and helping people get to appointments.
Another need is funding and food donations for furry friends who brought in newcomers.
“It’s pretty much the same thing we see with natural disaster interventions in Canada: people don’t want to leave their pets and won’t leave their pets,” Nicole Frey, founder of Animal Food Bank in Winnipeg, told CBC. at speed guest host Stephanie Cram on Tuesdays.
Frey said about 30 cats, 10 dogs and a hamster arrived with their owners on Monday. Tuesday included buying and dropping off a hamster cage and cat scratching posts at the shelter, Frey said.
Currently, volunteers are trying to educate newcomers about municipal sterilization and neuter statutes, permits, and other rules.
Animal Food Bank is run by volunteers and receives no government funding, Frey said. The organization accepts pet food and financial donations through its website.
Krawetz said more work needs to be done to prepare for the next wave of Ukrainian newcomers.
He said those who arrived Monday were overwhelmed and grateful as they got off the plane.
“They know they’re safe, they know they can start over here,” he said. “A lot of people’s tears, a lot of smiles and our goal was to really put them at ease and comfort them and let them process quickly.”
It was also personally touching for Krawetz, whose family was directly affected by the war.
“It was very humbling and heartwarming because Manitoba is currently leading the country, I would say, in supporting new arrivals from Ukraine,” he said. “It was a really proud moment as a Manitoban but also as a Ukrainian-Canadian.”