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Why this Russian immigrant is helping Ukrainians resettle in Canada

Why this Russian immigrant is helping Ukrainians resettle in Canada

The Present19:10Russian-Canadian helps Ukrainians resettle throughout Canada

Russian-Canadian Katya Sundukova has hosted 15 households from Ukraine in her Ontario residence over the previous yr. We hear how and why she’s helped so many households settle into Canada.

Katya Sundukova is one in every of many individuals in Canada who’ve opened the doorways of their properties to Ukrainians fleeing their nation after Russia’s invasion.

However she has to face one hurdle when she first meets a brand new visitor: Sundukova is Russian.

“I had a bit bit of hysteria when our first household arrived,” stated Sundukova, who lives along with her husband Jason Campbell in Caledon Hills, Ont., about an hour’s drive north of Toronto.

However after some “heart-to-heart” dialogue, she and her friends are comfortable.

“I feel it’s my private therapeutic course of from, you already know, the ache that all of us expertise as Russians and Ukrainians, you already know, being put into this case the place brothers and sisters are within the battle now.”

Sundukova, a everlasting resident who has lived in Canada for 10 years, has hosted 32 Ukrainians, together with 14 households, in her residence over the previous yr. She says their size of keep varies anyplace from two days to 2 months.

The fleeing Ukrainians met Sundukova by means of grassroots Fb teams and, a global community of volunteers working to attach Ukrainians with potential hosts around the globe. The Canadian authorities has approved Ukrainians to return to Canada by means of the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Journey program.

She then helps them search for potential longer-term housing and work, together with connecting them with potential employers to refining their cowl letters.

However she will’t assist everybody who asks. Since placing her contact info on, she says she will get as many as 20 requests a day from individuals hoping to stick with her.

Olha’s journey

Olha Sukhina and her three youngsters fled their beloved hometown of Odesa, southern Ukraine, on Feb. 24, 2022 — the day the battle started.

They stayed with Sundukova for 2 weeks, earlier than shifting to Owen Sound, Ont. The municipality, with the assist of native companies, was providing free hire to Ukrainian ladies and kids fleeing the battle.

Sukhina lived in Owen Sound rent-free for the primary six months, and remains to be paying beneath market worth. She’s at present working in a kitchen. She’s additionally began her personal enterprise promoting perogies and borscht on the native farmers’ market.

Her arrival adopted a fraught journey that included driving throughout a bridge at midnight of evening as Russian ships watched from simply offshore, holing up in a small village near the Ukraine-Romania border, and spending three months in a Bulgarian resort with about 2,000 different Ukrainians who had additionally fled.

On the camp, she helped set up physician visits and handle their medical provides, regardless of having no expertise in well being care, amidst outbreaks of COVID-19 and chickenpox.

“Oh my God, it was a loopy time,” she recalled.

Olha Sukhina, left, and Katya Sundukova, proper. When Sukhina fled Ukraine due to the Russian invasion final yr, she stayed with Sundukova for a couple of weeks as she found out the small print of her resettlement in Canada. The 2 stay shut buddies. (John Chipman/CBC)

For a time, listening to somebody converse Russian pained Sukhina emotionally. However she was in a position to transfer previous the rapid trauma, a minimum of for now, by remembering her personal combined Ukrainian and Russian heritage.

“After I ask questions of myself — who I’m — I’m a lady. I’m combined. It’s regular,” she stated.

“Nationalities [are] no good. It’s authorities, it’s political. The individuals have to know: we’re human.”

Katya’s home

Sundukova’s house is spacious, with 4 flooring of residing house, three bedrooms and a big loft. Oh, and don’t overlook the massive yurt of their yard. It’s nestled in a serene rural setting, on nearly 10 hectares of woodland criss-crossed with creeks and trails.

That doesn’t imply it doesn’t get cramped. Sundukova recalled as soon as internet hosting two households, a complete of eight individuals.

“It was truly our first friends as a result of they didn’t need to separate. They have been fairly scared they usually needed to remain collectively,” she recalled.

Regardless of their spectacular residence, Sundukova says she and her household aren’t “cash-rich” sufficient to sponsor all of their hosts for his or her journey from Ukraine to Canada.

Two women and three children smile for the camera, seated on a fold out bed.
Katya Sundukova, left, sits with Olha Sukhina and Sukhina’s three youngsters. Sukhina stayed with Sundukova for 2 weeks final yr after fleeing Odesa, Ukraine. She later settled in Owen Sound, Ont. (John Chipman/CBC)

She and Campbell each work in occasion planning, a subject that has suffered for the reason that pandemic. To adapt, she began breeding canine, and hopes to host meditation retreats of their yurt if she will get the permits sorted out.

In the end, she will’t do a lot to assist them till they’ve arrived on Canadian soil.

“We simply supplied our home and meals and the drives [around town] so that they sooner or later, you already know, may get a job, may discover a place, and go on their very own,” she stated.

Campbell says most of the individuals they’ve met may develop into lifelong buddies.

“[It] not solely makes you are feeling higher for doing one thing to assist, but additionally simply assembly all these new households and, you already know, seeing them begin new lives right here, it’s rewarding,” he stated.

‘Completely grateful’

One in all Sundukova’s current friends didn’t understand at first that Sundukova was Russian, nevertheless it issues little to him.

“I’m completely grateful to [her]. I don’t see the particular person by their nation. I do see the particular person by their actions,” stated the person in his mid-20s, who arrived earlier this month from Kyiv. The CBC has agreed to name him Sasha, as he fears repercussions if his actual title have been used.

The primary days of the battle have been “terrifying” whereas he was residing together with his dad and mom in Kyiv, Sasha recalled. 

“The toughest factor was, I assume simply your entire plans ruined, like with a blink of a watch. So that you had your life deliberate out and increase, there was battle.”

A woman stands in front of a circular yurt home in a snowy, rural backyard.
Katya Sundukova standing exterior a yurt that she and her husband constructed on their property in Caledon Hills, Ont. (John Chipman/CBC)

Each of Sasha’s dad and mom are nonetheless in Kyiv, and his sister is at present residing elsewhere in Europe. However he felt coming to Canada can be a greater match, together with his English expertise.

Staying in Sundukova’s residence for a couple of weeks has offered a well-appreciated respite.

“I do really feel like it’s some sort of chateau or like a villa within the Alps. Possibly due to the snow,” he stated.

‘Their hearts are nonetheless of their nation’

Sundukova took her first break from internet hosting Ukrainians fleeing the battle simply earlier than Christmas, citing burnout and a have to recharge.

She is aware of that even along with her assist, it’s going to nonetheless be an extended highway forward for a lot of of them, whether or not they select to remain in Canada long-term or hope to return to Ukraine in the future.

“I wouldn’t say they’re flourishing. Like … they battle to pay their hire. Most of them are on minimal [wage]. So that they nonetheless use meals banks. They can not afford a automotive, can’t afford regular issues which they used to have,” she stated.

“And they’re watching the information every day. So that they’re heartbroken. Their hearts are nonetheless of their nation.”

Composite image of people in costumes singing and dancing.
Ukrainians who stayed with Katya Sundukova after fleeing the Russian invasion as a part of their resettlement in Canada return for a New 12 months’s costume social gathering in Sundukova’s yurt in Caledon Hills, Ont., in January 2023. (John Chipman/CBC)

Sukhina admitted that at occasions, she had felt like “a robotic,” disconnected from pleasure, as soon as the preliminary euphoria of arriving in Canada wore off.

“One time I stated, ‘you must have a look at the sky. It’s the star, it’s the solar, it’s the moon. You must be blissful you’re alive. It’s OK, and your youngsters are with you,’” she stated.

Even on their off time, Sundukova invited some former home friends to their yurt, and threw a New 12 months’s social gathering.

“We made up a play, like a bit sort of a household theatre occasion, and we had 35 actors taking part in it,” she stated. 

They’re already anticipating their subsequent household subsequent month. She has little doubt that by serving to Ukrainians fleeing the battle, she has helped herself, too.

“I understand how a lot ache there nonetheless is with anyone who’s from Ukraine or Russia or anyplace close to there,” she stated.

“So I’ll simply assist so long as I can.”