REGINA — For the Ukrainians who flew to Saskatchewan this past week, the nine-hour flight was the easy part.
Now the hard part is getting health cards, SIN numbers, drivers licences, jobs, bank accounts and all the rest of what needs to be done to settle in Canada.
This week, the University of Regina’s Research and Innovation Centre has been the location for what is described as a one-stop shop for those 900 displaced Ukrainians.
It is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week and its services are available to those Ukrainians who have already recently arrived as well as those on the humanitarian flight from Warsaw that arrived Monday.
The goal of the event is to make the transition to life in Canada as easy as possible for those Ukrainian arrivals.
Several groups set up at the location with booths from such agencies as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Regina Open Door Society Inc., the city of Regina, Regina Police Service, as well as local property companies and the major banks, among others. There was also information on how to learn English as a second language, and interpreters were also there to help those who did not know English.
The Ukrainian arrivals are able to work in Canada for up to three years, and job opportunities resources were available at the event.
“An event like this is really important, because settlement and ensuring they have what they need to successfully settle in Saskatchewan is one of our key and primary goals as the government in Saskatchewan is ensuring they have the support they need for successful transition into our province,” said Chantelle Patrick, one of the directors of the Saskatchewan Ukraine Response Team.
“We really hope they choose to stay in our province for the long term and make a home here.”
The location of the event was a convenient one, because the Ukrainian arrivals from the Warsaw flight had been staying at the University of Regina campus while they seek more permanent living arrangements.
Among the Ukrainians who were at the event Thursday were Nataliia and Ihor Osoba.
They said they were very thankful to be there. Through an interpreter, they told reporters that before they moved to Canada, they had done research online and found Saskatchewan had a large Ukrainian community, and very good support from them.
Another at the event was Olga Machuga, from Lviv. She had fled the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, “because I was really scared and didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
Machuga spent 33 hours in the car trying to get through the border. Since then, she had been staying with friends in Poland and Germany and continued to work online.
Now she is in Regina, and plans to connect with her mom’s friend in Winnipeg.
Machuga says she is thankful to be in Canada, which she saw as a better fit than Central Europe because of her English language skills. She was grateful for the warm welcome Ukrainians are receiving from Canadians.
“People are really nice to you — very, honestly, nice. That feels like amazing — being loved is the best feeling ever.”