‘Ottawa is very cozy for me’: Ukrainians grateful for new life after fleeing Russian invasion

Ukrainians who came to Ottawa after fleeing the Russian invasion say they are grateful for their new lives in Canada.

Inna Savska and Katya Kolomiiets arrived in Canada a year ago. They came to Ottawa to stay with Anna Plugatyr and her family, the only relatives they have in Canada.

Savska is Plugatyr’s cousin and is from Kharkiv, Ukraine. Katya Kolomiiets’ brother is Plugatyr’s husband. She is from Poltava, Ukraine, about 150 kilometres west of Kharkiv.

Savska says her life, “has changed a lot from last year. The biggest change is that my husband arrived here, and we are together right now, and our family is complete right now.”

Her husband arrived in July. Savska says, “He is learning English; it is very hard! He is working; our life feels a little bit like normal.”

The family has their own apartment in Ottawa.

Saska is working at a medical centre and is teaching figure skating part-time at the Nepean Skating Club.

“I wanted to do it so much, I completed courses to be a figure skating coach and I have a contract with Nepean Skating Club.”

Kolomiiets and her two children are staying with Plugatyr. Kolomiiets is working as a tutor for the public school board. Her children are enrolled in the Grade 6 and Senior Kindergarten.

“I can believe that it has been a year; it passed very fast for me,” she says. “My kids are doing great. My son’s English is amazing; he can explain everything in English. They like to go to school.”

Kolomiiets husband is still a soldier on the front lines in Ukraine. She says communication can be sporadic and sometimes unreliable.

She says, “My husband is fighting for Ukraine, but we are still in touch. I can talk to him every second day maybe. I am very proud of him, and I want to see him as soon as possible.”

Since living in Canada, the women have spent time getting to know Ottawa. They have visited the Tulip Festival and spent Canada Day on Parliament Hill. They also say they have gotten used to Ottawa’s harsh winter conditions.

“Ottawa is very cozy for me,” Kolomiiets said. “You can go to different places and feel like everything is pretty close and nice, buildings are very nice. I like Ottawa very much.”

The women say being so far from home has been difficult, but Savska says she continues to have hope for Ukraine.

“Ukrainians are so strong, and they are fighting, and they are surviving every day without power, without water, but they are still strong, and they will win.”

The women and their children did not claim refugee status to come to Canada. They are here with a temporary visa, under an emergency immigration program with the federal government. The visa is for three years.

Plugatyr says she is proud of her relatives and hopes they can inspire other newcomers that they can make a life in Canada.

“It was always just us in Canada, so now we have so many relatives and gatherings at the table, it was incredible to have your loved ones here, if not for the circumstances,” Plugatyr said.

“Of course, we are still missing everyone who is still back home and cannot be with us for different reasons, everyone is missing everyone.”

Plugatyr says the Ukrainian community in Ottawa will continue to do what they can to support Ukraine.

“Ukrainians will not give up; the whole year seem to bring this to some kind of end for Ukrainians, but they just keep getting closer shoulder to shoulder and standing stronger and stronger,” Plugatyr said.

“Another attack (in Ukraine), we will just donate money, something happens- we will get together and do something.”

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