Posted at 6:00 am
“They arrived with a backpack and barely a toothbrush. »
With these words, Claudia Laflamme tells of the arrival in Quebec at the end of March of Iryna Maievska, who had traveled directly from the Ukraine with her family.
Claudia Laflamme is the Director of the South Shore Furniture Foundation, an organization associated with the Quebec region furniture maker of the same name.
“In March we were all stunned to see the horrors in Ukraine. When the war broke out, we started asking real estate developers what they could do. Many responded to the call with very interesting offers. 6 months free, 6 months at 50%, internet costs covered etc. says Claudia Laflamme.
So an apartment and support for Ukrainians was offered. The first family to benefit from the support of the South Shore Furniture Foundation is that of Iryna Maievska.
The organization has pledged to cover the cost of the apartment for the first few months to give the family a chance to settle in as these are people who have lost almost everything.
We visited local businesses to solicit generosity in the form of gift cards and materials.
People answered the call. “It was magical. Really nice to look at,” she adds.
“Jean Coutu gave us basic drugstore items (toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, etc.), IGA gave us gift cards for families, Simons stores gave us gift cards so people could do some basic shopping. Tanguay offers home appliances. Butchers, restaurants and other local shops around the apartments distributed vouchers. »
Iryna Maievska arrived in Quebec at the end of March with her husband, parents and their two sons, aged 9 and 12. “My 16-year-old daughter just joined us in Quebec because she wasn’t in Ukraine with us. She studied in the US as part of an exchange program,” says Iryna Maievska.
The 39-year-old says her husband was able to leave Ukraine because they have three children under the age of 18.
The family lived in Kyiv. In Ukraine, Iryna Maievska says, she was the director of a wholesale company whose facilities were destroyed by bombs.
Iryna Maievska started at South Shore Furniture in late May, two months after arriving here. He was given an administrative position within the company on the south coast of Quebec.
“I work compliantly. It runs fine. It’s not the same job I did in Ukraine, but it’s still comparable in some respects. I know this area well,” says Iryna Maievska.
Her husband is an entrepreneur. He had a shop specializing in kitchen sinks.
“My husband takes French lessons from my parents here every day to learn the language. He is hoping to find a job soon while my father is a dentist and wants to get a job as a dental assistant. My mother intends to volunteer in a community organization,” says Iryna Maievska.
“We have adapted and today everything is fine,” continues the person who found accommodation (four and a half) in the Neufchâtel-Lebourgneuf sector. “It’s a very beautiful area,” she says.
“We are considering returning to Ukraine at some point, but we will wait until the situation is safe. My children and my mother would love to go there again. »
A dozen families
According to Claudia Laflamme, the foundation has now been able to help a dozen Ukrainian families come here.
“There are two pregnant women in the group. As a rule, men cannot leave the country. The women therefore arrive alone. In their case, we cannot expect them to be able to afford housing within six months of giving birth. We agreed to pay her rent for a year. »
The Foundation has decided to create a joint document on the Internet inviting Ukrainians to submit their CVs. “We distribute the file in the network of partner companies that support us in the project. We’re in a job crisis in Quebec, so finding a job can be easier,” says Claudia Laflamme.
“Ukrainians want to work, but the language barrier complicates things. »
Claudia Laflamme points out that the project gained its full meaning when she met the first family. “We meet people who want to start their lives all over again. It’s not that we’re insensitive to other refugees arriving from other parts of the world, it’s just that when the war in Ukraine started, we had the means and resources to respond to the call . If we had had these funds for the Syrian crisis or any other crisis, we would have done the same. It’s really a matter of timing. »
Claudia Laflamme notes that a large number of volunteers had to be mobilized to collect the material. She is sometimes torn, she says, because the number of requests does not match what the foundation is offering.
“We want to respond to as many families as possible, but we provide financial support to several frontline community organizations and services. And there we are increasing the volume of inquiries by adding refugee families using their services. We therefore ask for the generosity of the people. »
Claudia Laflamme says she has a waiting list of about 30 Ukrainian families wanting to come to Quebec.
“There are no apartments available at the moment. We are in a context of housing shortage. All of the problems Quebecers face also face newcomers. And 90% of the arrivals are women and children. You know the problems with day-care centers and care services for women with small children. We face the same problems as the rest of Quebec’s population. »