Two women who fled war in Ukraine find safety with Ottawa family
Katie Kolomiiets and her two children arrived in Canada early Wednesday morning at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.
Her brother Andrei Plugatyr drove her home to Ottawa to stay with him and his wife Anna.
"I am happy, finally, it was a long way; we left our home on March 5," Kolomiiets says. "It was a long way and quite difficult because we had to stay different places, lots of kind people sheltered us, we are very grateful for their help. Finally, we are here- we are very happy!"
Kolomiiets describes the journey from her hometown of Poltava, about 150 kilometres west of Kharkiv.
"We drove three days to get to western Ukraine, and we stayed in western Ukraine for two weeks, and then we went to Poland, and we stayed in Warsaw for about two weeks to get visas, and then by plane here."
The journey made that much more difficult because her husband stayed behind.
"He is in the army now; he protects our country, so he stayed there."
She says she worries for him, "but I am still proud of him."
Kolomiiets says it is hard to see images of the fighting that continues in Ukraine.
"I cry all the time, I can’t watch the news, just cry, and cry, and cry."
The women and their children did not claim refugee status to come to Canada. They are here with a temporary visa – under a new emergency immigration program with the federal government.
Ukrainian-Canadian Anna Plugatyr says it took weeks to get all the paperwork ready and getting family from Ukraine to Canada is not easy.
"It is a big relief to have them here, to know that they are safe that they can relax and sleep through the night without worrying they will have run somewhere and hide," Plugatyr said.
Plugatyr says welcoming her family to her home is hard to put into words.
"For me the moment was incredibly emotional, we just hugged all together, held each other together, there are no words to describe how you feel in this moment."
Inna Savska is Anna Plugatyr’s cousin and has been in Canada for two weeks. She fled Kharkiv.
"I am okay now, but when we were in Ukraine, for six days we were sitting in cellar under Russian bombs. It was then that we decided to leave because it was terrible, it was very scary," Savksa says.
"I can’t explain how scary it was."
Savska and her two children drove for four days to western Ukraine before staying in various cities until they decided to go to Poland and attempt to get visas to come for Canada.
"My husband stayed in Ukraine, he is not in the army, but he is volunteering with helping with humanitarian aid," Saska says.
“It was heartbreaking. To watch kids say goodbye to their father is heartbreaking,” she says.
Both women say the support from the community in Ottawa has been overwhelming and they are grateful.
Savska says, "I am crying from people support and I am crying because of terrible situation in Ukraine, I see my city Kharkiv bombed every day, my friends are in Kharkiv and I worry about them it is very difficult."
The women will stay with the Plugatyrs for now but want to find their own residences as well as get jobs. They also hope to enroll their children in school.
They hope to one day return to Ukraine.
"We want to go back; we want to go home, we will rebuild our city and walk or favourite walks again. There is hope."