A Ukrainian family is now living in Nelson after escaping the war in their homeland.
Tina Coletti, who is part of a group that is sponsoring the family, says the father, mother, and twin seven-year-old boys arrived last Thursday.
Although Coletti’s group has been working to bring a family to the area, previous ones chose other locations in Canada. However, eight days ago they received a call that a family was due to arrive in Vancouver but had no place to go because their arrangements with a host family elsewhere in BC were falling apart.
Coletti says they quickly arranged for the family to stay at a hotel in Vancouver while they made plans to bring them to Nelson. She is not identifying them by name for the time being, but says they are from a village just south of Bucha.
“It would have been catastrophe if they had stayed,” Coletti says. “They told me about the day the war was starting to come toward Bucha and the boys said ‘Mummy, the trees are moving.’ It was tanks knocking over the trees.
“They stayed in the basement for that first night and the next morning fled their home with very little belongings and drove for 20 hours to another city very close to Lviv and stayed there and then the bombings came there. They went to Romania and have been sleeping in a church for the last month. So they have been through a lot.”
Both of the couple’s parents are still in Ukraine, because their fathers are fighting in the war. The father who has come to Nelson met the criteria that allowed him to leave the country, Coletti says.
“We’re grateful that they’re one full family unit. They’re excited to start their life in Canada.”
She says that when the war in Donbas began, the mother realized she may have to leave the country one day and dedicated herself to learning English. As a result, “communication happens quite easily.” Google Translate also helps when writing things down. The children know a “tiny bit” of English and are expected to start school this week.
Coletti says they need to raise another $17,000 to support the family because the federal government’s refugee program isn’t as comprehensive as others. For example, psychologist and counselling services are not provided. Although they have received donations of things like clothing and bicycles, she says direct financial support is needed most.
Tax-deductible donations can be made through the Highland Baptist Church in Edmonton via Canada Helps: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/highlands-baptist-church/campaign/ukrainian-refugee-nelson/
Coletti says she appreciates the support they have already received from the community.
“I’ve always been impressed with the support and care that the people of the Kootenays provide others in need. I think we’ve all been affected by the war we’re witnessing. People can feel good about being able to help others in need.”
She says four families from Nelson got together in February when the war started to raise money for Red Cross Ukrainian relief, but soon made it a goal to support two families for four months, giving them time to get used to Canada, find employment, and housing.
She adds they are still hoping to host a second family as well, but there is no word on when they might arrive.