The Experience of a Refugee

by Begimay Koigeldi

Since the outbreak of conflict in Ukraine two years ago, Canada has extended a helping hand to those fleeing the horrors of war through initiatives like the Canada-Ukraine temporary authorization for an emergency travel program (CUAET). However, as the crisis continues, challenges arise, leading many Ukrainian refugees to seek refuge not only in Canada but also in Europe.

In response to the crisis, over 200,000 Ukrainians have sought refuge in Canada, with an additional 90,000 considering similar plans before the end of March, according to pre-arrival surveys conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

Mariia Khodiuk, a 20-year-old refugee from Kharkiv, found refuge in Toronto last March through the CUAET program. Alongside her boyfriend, they fled the turmoil of war. With CUAET's assistance, they secured accommodation and received financial support. Mariia, now settled in Toronto, works part-time as a manicure master and at a cleaning agency, showcasing her resilience and determination to rebuild her life in Canada.

Currently, Mariia rents a one-bedroom apartment where she can take her clients for manicures. Her landlord has been exceptionally supportive, furnishing their apartment generously and even reducing the rent by $100. In an interview, Mariia expressed her gratitude, saying,

"The landlord was very kind to us and made every effort to ensure our comfort, sparing no effort. It was our very first experience with Canadians upon arriving in Canada, and it left a very positive impression of the people here."

Despite the commendable efforts of organizations like Operation Ukrainian Safe Haven, which have facilitated donations of clothes, furniture, and job opportunities in Canada, challenges persist. The settlement sector, initially overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, now struggles to provide ongoing support.

Data reveals a of refugee migration patterns, with many Ukrainians choosing European destinations due to their proximity and the hope of eventually returning home when conditions improve.

Oksana, moved to Toronto from Ukraine in 1965. When the war broke out in 2022, Oksana welcomed her niece Mariana and Mariana's daughter into her home in Toronto. She helped them with paperwork for the CUAET program. After 18 months, Mariana found a part-time cooking job, and her daughter attended school. Eventually, they returned to Ukraine to reunite with family. Oksana's support during this challenging time demonstrates the strength of the Ukrainian community in Toronto and abroad.

While Canada's initial response was marked by kindness, maintaining support for Ukrainian refugees remains a pressing concern. As the situation evolves, it's essential for both governmental and community organizations to ensure continuous assistance to help Ukrainian newcomers integrate successfully.

As the crisis in Ukraine continues, the plight of Ukrainian refugees reminds us of the enduring humanitarian challenges facing the global community. In times of difficulty, unity and empathy remain vital in providing refuge and support to those in need, wherever they seek shelter.

Begimay Koigeldi

Producer and Writer: The Experience of a Refugee

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