Kharkiv native Pavlo and Natalie Lebedev eagerly awaited the Ukrainian flag in the hand of Pavlo’s mother and sister’s arrival.
Immediately after landing, the young couple received an emotional call: their loved ones wanted to tell them that they had finally arrived and were safe.
Pavlo’s sister lived near Kyiv when Russia invaded the country. Since the region was surrounded by the Russian army for more than a month, it took him so long to cross the border. Mother and daughter traveled to Poland where they awaited their visas.
Natalie’s mother, sister and niece arrived in Winnipeg a month ago. Her sister’s husband stayed in Ukraine.
Pavlo and Natalie Lebedev have lost their appetite and sleep since the beginning of this war, listening to the news and eagerly awaiting news from their families and friends.
But while their newly arrived family members are greeted by familiar faces, many other refugees come here without knowing anyone.
However, they are greeted by volunteers who are often Ukrainian themselves and can greet them in their own language and guide them through the various services available to them at the airport welcome kiosk and nearby Manitoba Ukrainian Refugee Center.
A unique model in the country
Winnipeg was chosen as one of the top three cities to host refugees arriving on a chartered flight from Canada, in large part because the reception model works well, says Nick Krawetz, a Canadian Ukrainian volunteer in Manitoban’s Congress.
It’s a unique model in Canada, so we’re ready to welcome it, he explains. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau discussed charter flights on April 9th.
This was recalled by Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, who wanted to welcome the refugees from this first charter flight to the country
The provincial task force has worked hard to ensure all services are available to these families in Manitoba.
We will continue to work to ensure these refugees get the support they need.She said.
Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland arrived at Winnipeg’s James Richardson International Airport early Monday afternoon.
Chrystia Freeland acknowledged that taking in refugees poses challenges, but does not rule out that the federal government will organize further charter flights.
She greeted the many local volunteers dressed in the colors of Ukraine.
A prepared reception
Upon disembarkation, the nationals will be divided into groups of 30 by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officials, accompanied by 16 Manitoba volunteers from the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress.
There will be 24 more volunteers spread across the airport.
The Winnipeg Airport Authority (AAW) provided us with wonderful support in terms of communication and logisticssays volunteer Darya Omilchenko.
We are many among volunteers with families in Ukraine, so all this is very important to usShe keeps going.
” On the one hand, I’m happy that we’re here to help the Ukrainians, but I’m also sad because they were forced to leave their country. »
Once the first phase of reception is complete, each group of 30 people will exit the international arrivals area to walk onto buses that will take them directly to the reception center for Ukrainian refugees in Manitoba.
Families are reunited here if necessary.
” You will have instant access to a variety of support services provided by the province’s Ukrainian community as well as the Manitoba government. »
The challenge of living
These 350 refugees are in addition to the 400 who have already been in the territory since the Russian invasion began in February.
Some of the newcomers are being met by friends and family, others have no network in Manitoba. To this end, the province has established a partnership with the organization New travel casewhich will, among other things, try to provide apartments in Winnipeg for Ukrainian nationals.
The provincial government previously announced $800,000 in direct humanitarian aid to Ukrainian refugees since the war began.
According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly six million Ukrainians have fled their country since the Russian invasion began.
Two more aircraft will land in Canada shortly, the first in Montreal on May 29 and the second in Halifax on June 2.
With information from Laïssa Pamou and Karen Pauls