Ukrainian father and son arrive in Labrador — happy to be in Canada but hoping for an end to the war

A Ukrainian father who came to Canada to escape war in his home country says that while he is happy to be here, he hopes to see the end of the war soon.

Before the war, Vasyl Panasyk taught physical education, had almost finished his studies and lived in a large house with his wife and children in Zbarazh, western Ukraine.

“My kids were going to school, my wife was cooking for us, I was working,” Panasyk told CBC News through an interpreter. “It was like everyone’s life.”

Then in 2014, the conflict in Crimea began. Russia annexed the Crimean region, and Panasyk and his family began to worry. Inflation soared, Panasyk dropped out of school and took on labor and seasonal work, while the family began planning to move. Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

“We had a feeling it was happening, so we tried to leave as soon as possible,” Panasyk said. “I dreamed that first I would go to Canada on my own, then I would settle there and in Canada, then I could bring the whole family to this wonderful country.”

Some family members were able to flee to Poland while their visas were processed. However, when the time came to come to Canada, the accommodation available was a two-bedroom suite, so Panasyk came to Canada with his son, Yurii, leaving his wife and two daughters in Krakow.

Vasyl and Yurii Panasyk arrived in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador to a small group of people who greeted them with flags and signs. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

On October 14, the two arrived at Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the third family unit to arrive in Labrador.

“We really feel welcome here,” said Vasyl Panasyk. “And we’re also grateful for the first few days we just arrived in Canada that we were welcomed and fed and given everything we needed. So we’re very grateful and grateful.”

A father looks at his son with a smile.
Vasyl Panasyk watches his son after his arrival. The two are in Happy Valley-Goose Bay to find housing and employment so that Vasyl’s wife and two young daughters can join them. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

He hopes to complete his university degree and educate children as he did through a program in Ukraine. He also wants to find a job and a place in Labrador where he can bring his 21-year-old wife and two daughters, 10 and 12 years old. Her dream is that they have their own home again.

The war in Ukraine tops the family’s agenda

The war in Ukraine is always on the mind since two of his children are still in the country. Her eldest daughter was studying medicine in Ukraine and her son is currently volunteering.

“As a parent, it’s really difficult because here we are safe,” Panasyk said. “They hide in the bomb shelters and they live there without electricity. They have these aerial bombardments every day.”

The family also has parents, brothers, sisters and cousins ​​in the area, said Panasyk, who hopes the federal government and Canadians will continue to welcome Ukrainians.

“It breaks our hearts because we [are] safe here and they’re not safe there and you don’t know how the day will end,” he said. “So on the one hand my dream has come true and now I am in Canada. But I am not happy that there is a war going on in my home country.

“I really want this war to stop. I want people to stop dying for nothing.”

Labrador Morning27:34Ukrainian father-son duo arriving in Labrador, happy to be in Canada, call for an end to the war at home

A Ukrainian family separated while traveling to Canada in hopes of finding suitable housing and employment. Vasyl Panasyk arrived with his son Yurii. He hopes to bring his wife and two young daughters soon.


Welcomed with signs, grocery store, two bedroom suite

It was reassuring to be greeted in the city by a small group holding signs and with open arms, Panasyk said.

A dozen people made their way to the airport on the Friday evening of their arrival, while a Ukrainian flag hung from the ceiling of the airport. Toby Bauld was ready to welcome them as their trip organizer.

A group of people smile at the camera while holding Canadian and Ukrainian flags and homemade signs that read
The Panasyks were thrilled to see a group of locals welcome them to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Heidi Atter/CBC)

“The people of Labrador are very generous,” Bauld said. “I think he’s going to really have fun here. Labrador has a way of growing up with you.”

Roman Catholic, Pentecostal, Salvation Army, Moravian and United Church groups banded together to hold a grocery drive and raise funds for their arrival, Bauld said.

The two stay for free in Bauld’s two-bedroom basement suite until they are able to find a house the family can live in comfortably so Panasyk’s wife and daughters can also fly here. .

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