Lacombe resident Olya Kay has spent the last few weeks on the move, arranging the arrival and sponsorship of seven Ukraine families.
It started with a conversation between her and her sister, Nadya. Kay, who moved to Canada from Ukraine, still has family and friends living in the country and has been watching closely.
“My sister Liliya and her two girls, Anna and Sofia, are staying in Poland. Liliya is going to start helping pets who have been abandoned by their owners,” said Kay. Liliya is a veterinarian.
“(She is) a really good one, so she can provide proper treatment for them. She’s meeting with the owners of the animal shelter today to discuss different options. She is also learning Polish.”
Kay’s sister is still in Ukraine. Her other sister, Nadya, her husband Vitalii and their children were thinking they would be going to the U.S. but at the time that country was not offering support. Once Canada stepped up to help those displaced, the decision to come to Alberta was a bit easier.
“Their biometrics appointment is at the end of March. Nadya told me a day before yesterday that she’s going to start helping Ukrainian refugees who are arriving at the border as soon.”
This got the ball rolling and now a group of 35, made up of parents with their children will be arriving in Canada.
“I have a house here but I don’t have enough room,” said Kay, who has a family herself. She posted on community boards on Facebook and approached members of her church. Within a few days, she had received a great amount of support, almost too much support.
“People wanted to help families with children,” said Kay, adding that the families with children are generally looking to settle in the large cities with transportation.
Kay doesn’t know all the families that are coming over personally, she’s just helping out her fellow Ukrainians.
“When we started we had three families. We got to five but I thought, ‘No I have to keep going,’ so we took on three more on.”
Kay said she was worried her fellow supporters might be frustrated with the additional families but they jumped right in, eager to assist.
The group will have staggered arrivals. The first family will arrive April 18, and Kay’s sister will land in Canada on May 15. Back in Ukraine, the families are still tying up loose ends on their affairs.
“All of them left their lives behind. They have some obligations to wrap up – like vehicles they can’t bring those with them.”
The process of getting passports and visas is also difficult to navigate.
“There are so many applicants that it takes two to three weeks right now.”
Kay said that all the families are just needing temporary support. Once families are in Canada, they will need help with social insurance documents, finding work and arranging and attending medical appointments.
In the coming weeks, the group of volunteers will have a list of items that are needed by the families. Community members who want to help out will be able to see the list, as the items are donated for the families they will be removed from the list to prevent any overstock.
Families and individuals have stepped up to offer temporary housing, clothing, food and other comforts needed to restart.
“We want them to feel comfortable when they come.”
One of the bigger items that Kay is trying to arrange for the families are their own beds.
“Beds provide a sort of stability for them. They can think ‘This is my bed, this is my bedding,’” said Kay, adding that a bed is something they can take with them to their new homes once they are on their feet.
Kay said the hardest part of the sponsorship has been getting the families to accept the help.
“They are grateful for the help and support and they want to be independent once they are settled.”
For more information on how to sponsor a family or donate items email email@example.com.