Province’s Ukrainian Support Office expands to Poland

ST. JOHN’S, NL — Ukrainians living in Newfoundland and Labrador hope that efforts like those announced by the provincial government on Thursday, March 17 will soon help bring family and friends fleeing the war in Ukraine to safety in Canada.

Prime Minister Andrew Furey and Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne said the Ukrainian Family Support Office initiative that was announced earlier this week will expand to Warsaw, Poland, to offer in-person support Ukrainians seeking temporary refuge and permanent resettlement in the province.

A four-person team from the province will travel to Poland to undertake direct outreach to the approximately three million people who have fled Ukraine and who may be seeking information to come to Newfoundland and Labrador. The team will be mainly based in Warsaw and may undertake site visits in other cities where the persons concerned are temporarily accommodated.

Nadya Velychko, who lives in Harbor Grace, said she’s glad the province is taking such an initiative.

His mother, sister and niece, who lived near Hostomel airport just outside the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, had to flee the area to safety. Her mother is now in Poland, while her sister, her husband and their daughter remain in a safe place in western Ukraine.

“I spent the whole day trying to find a ticket for my mother because she wants to come here,” Velychko said. “She’s in an apartment in Poland and it’s only until the end of the month. I’m sure there are many people in the same situation, only temporary accommodation, because there are so many millions of refugees and Poland can’t really accept everyone. And she’s looking for a ticket. It’s expensive. We are looking for a ticket and she hopes to come by the end of the month.

Nadya Velichko. – Contributed

Furey said the provincial government continues to work closely with the federal government on all immigration-related matters and will engage with local embassy officials while in Poland.

“Once again, a conflict is taking place in a country far from our shores. Once again, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are answering the call to help, on many fronts,” he said. “We all want to help. We are all family. By taking the Ukrainian Family Support Office to Poland, our staff, who themselves have strong roots in the region, carry our collective wish to help, where help is most needed.

Megan Morris, executive director of the Association for New Canadians, said the Ukraine Support Office initiative is creative and positive.

“I think the province demonstrates a desire to really open our doors, our province, to the Ukrainian people,” Morris said. “I think it’s a very proactive measure.

“With someone on the ground in Poland, someone to talk to in your native language or a language you know, it could be very helpful for people, especially those who have just gone through a traumatic ordeal and are trying probably to make really critical life decisions.

The team’s scope of services in Poland will include: arranging information sessions on immigration programs and support services offered by Newfoundland and Labrador; match Ukrainian job seekers with employers in Newfoundland and Labrador; and prioritize immigration nomination applications from war-affected people in Ukraine.

Velychko hopes this will not only help his family members come to Newfoundland and Labrador, but also find jobs when they get here.

“My parents want to go back to Ukraine to rebuild their house (destroyed by shelling) after the war, but they would probably be here for a few years,” Velychko said. “They don’t speak much English and don’t know if they will be able to find a job. My father is a truck driver. He does not know if he will be able to transfer his license and classification. He is afraid of not being able to work here.

Velychko said it was difficult to watch the images of war in Ukraine, hospital bombings and children dying.

She said she was lucky her family members were able to get to safety, even though it was scary.

“Mom left a few days after (the start of the war) and was driving to try to save her life and the bombs were going off while she was driving,” Velychko said. “My sister and her husband and my niece spent days in the basement and then moved to a basement because it was safer. They then moved to a safe place near the Hungarian border in western Ukraine. Many people are not so lucky and cannot escape.

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