Ukraine to Morden 2022 has welcomed nine families to Morden through the Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) Program so far, with a potential of 20 more. Families arriving are welcomed at the Winnipeg Airport, often by their host family members or by another volunteer and are taken to live with a host family temporarily.
Daniil Kyselov and his wife, Anastasiia Kharlamova, were one of the first families to arrive in Morden in April.
Daniil and Anastasiia had applied to come to Canada and were learning English before bombs started dropping in Ukraine in February. In a podcast conversation at the May 4th Newcomer welcome, Kyselov said saying goodbye to his parents was extremely difficult, not knowing what the future was for them and for him and his wife.
Kyselov said just before they were leaving, his mom pressed her and her husband's wedding rings into his hand, concerned with how they would survive their journey out of the dangerous country.
"When she gave me her rings and she said, 'This is for you, son. Please, I don't have anything else, just take my rings." Kyselov stopped briefly, recalling the moment, "I just waited until she turned around and I put those rings on the shelf, so she could keep them. I know that I'm young, and I can earn money and find a job. OK, I will sleep somewhere on the floor for the first couple of months, but then for sure, I can put my life on the next level."
Kyselov and Kharlamova did make it out of Ukraine. After going through Romania and experiencing the kindness of Christian strangers who fed them and let them sleep for a night, they did spend the night on cots set up in a train station in Hungary before moving on to Austria, where they applied for the CUAET program. Not knowing if they would be accepted in Canada, they decided to make a new life in Germany.
Shortly after arriving in Germany, they were approved to move to Canada. Once they stepped off the plane in Winnipeg, they felt a new sense of hope for the future. They were welcomed warmly and within 16 days of arriving, both Kyselov and Kharlamova found jobs in Morden and could begin to look for their own home.
Kyselov shared his thoughts about Morden.
"This is a really a united community, which would like to help people like us."
Kharlamova continued with her gratitude, "That's right, we're going to stay here for a while, and we will help others, and we will become strong members of that community, who want to share."
She wishes she could do more for her host family and for those who have helped them settle in.
"I know that I can’t afford huge presents, but I think about them all the time, and how I can say thank you to them, and what I can do for them. They're really good friends, thank you, and thank you God for everything."
To hear their full story of moving to Canada and settling in Morden listen to the Pembina Valley Online Podcast Interview with Reporter Robyn Wiebe.
Viktoria Bilous, her husband and her 13-year-old Nika Horbenko, were living in a city along the Russian border in Ukraine when the war took action in February. They were occupied by Russian troops on the first day. It was clear, Viktoria and her daughter needed to find a safe place. So, they started toward Poland, leaving their husband and father behind. Viktoria and Nika made it to Poland safely but were unable to settle there.
Prior to 2022, they had applied to move to Morden, Canada and had started studying English. Their plan accelerated when they learned of the CUAET program and were accepted to move to Canada.
Bilous recalled coming down the escalator of Winnipeg Airport and seeing her host family waiting for them.
"Jeffrey, he was standing there with a sign, 'Victoria and family, Welcome!' We were so excited about that, and he's so kind. I worried about my English because, I never speak with native speakers before, but Jeffrey, he's cool, man. We talked a lot and he drove us and they are amazing people."
Jeffrey Klassen has given Bilous, her daughter and their 2 cats a place to stay until she finds employment and a home of their own.
Bilous described the first morning in Morden after moving from place to place for two months, through Ukraine and around Poland.
"When we woke up the first day, we looked at each other, and said, 'Maybe we are still in Warsaw.' So, Nika opened the window and we saw the street, and said, 'No, we are in Canada,' It was great."
Bilious is just one of many women who has arrived in Canada without her husband. She shared that until she arrived in Canada, she hadn't allowed herself to cry, but once she felt the safety and could relax, the tears flowed, missing her husband and grieving the war in Ukraine. Bilous has a seasonal part-time job and in the coming days, she will be looking for employment and Nika will be starting school.
Gratitude for the warm Morden welcomes generously flowed from both families making a new start in a community opening its doors to families in search of safety and a new life in Canada.
For those wanting to donate, become host families, offer employment, or volunteer as needed join the Ukraine to Morden 2022 Facebook page to learn how you can help.