Don’t take refugee stories for granted

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/05/2022 (257 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As Winnipeg begins to welcome Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of their country, I urge you to not get tired of their stories, because they are in need of everything and will need our help for some time.

My church is helping two families who have made it over and we are working to bring more over on our own dime. The cost is high, but we will keep helping.

The first family saw their oldest daughter get married a few days before the invasion. Days later, they were awakened by a call from Canada telling them Russia had invaded. They didn’t believe it until a few minutes later, when they heard the planes flying overhead on their way to bomb a nearby military base. The husband rushed to find a working ATM, picked up his wife and two young kids, and they fled to Romania. They worked their way to Winnipeg where within a week he found a job, and they rented an apartment.

Ukrainian refugees speak with staff at the Ukrainian reception centre in Winnipeg. Many people fleeing war in Ukraine will need our help.

The second family had an emergency suitcase ready, along with provisions in case they had to hide in the woods or a bomb shelter with three kids aged two, 11 and 14. They made their way to the Polish border, where the lineup to cress stretched 12 kilometres and only moved four kilometres each day. After a day in line, they had to leave because their youngest had a fever.

They returned to the border, where the line had shrunk to eight kilometres. Husband and wife were prepared to say goodbye to each other in case he was held back to fight. Somehow he got through and they continued to Germany. Once there, they connected with friends from church who had moved to Winnipeg eight years earlier. They arrived in early May. He has already had job interviews and they, too, have found a place to live.

“We always wanted to go to Canada,” they said to me. “We tried to immigrate eight years ago as skilled workers but didn’t pass an English language test. This time with God’s help we plan to reach our dream and put our feet on Canadian soil.”

The next couple we would like to bring to Canada has four children and they are fleeing for the second time in five years. They first left Luhansk in 2017 for Odessa and are now on the move again. Somehow we will help them, too.

We could not have helped these families without the generosity of so many people. Dufresne Furniture, through itsDream Big program, donated new mattresses, box springs and frames for these families and said to keep in touch if we need more help. Friends old and new have been very generous with everything from money, to apartments, furniture, food and gift cards.

The families are overwhelmed by the generosity of total strangers blessing them when they most need it. It’s Winnipeg at its finest.

As the stories continue, please don’t gloss over them. Don’t let them become a blur. They’re not all the same. But even if they were, behind each one is a family that has lost everything. Don’t tire of being generous.

Tony Zerucha

Tony Zerucha
East Kildonan community correspondent

Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at tzerucha@gmail.com

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