Petro Yankovsky and his family arrived in Canada in mid-August, seeking refuge near Victoria, British Columbia, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, unlike most Ukrainian refugees, they fled their homes in Russia. When the invasion of Ukraine began six months ago, the Yankovskys were based in Siberia as medical professionals.
“We are scared because we don’t know when our freedom will end,” Petro told CTV News Vancouver Island on Friday.
Pietro’s wife, Olga, works as a nurse and Pietro is a paramedic. Knowing that a Russian attack caused casualties in his homeland is very difficult, Petro said, but he didn’t hesitate to save Russian lives and do his job.
“I can help them,” he said, “I see no enemy.” “We are all human… we all have health issues.”
But as the war escalated, they feared for their lives and decided it was time to move on.
“I feel very dangerous,” Olga said. “It’s awful.”
The war in Ukraine prompted thousands of Ukrainians to come to Canada, prompting communities across the country to come together to gather supplies and help their new neighbors build homes here.
Since the federal government first announced in March that it would open a new route for Ukrainians to seek asylum in the country, nearly 74,500 Ukrainians have arrived in Canada.
The Jankowskis currently live in a former resort that was turned into a refugee shelter by carpenter and contractor Brian Holowaychuk.
Holowaychuk, who is of Ukrainian descent, has been working for several months to turn the 82-acre property into a free home for Ukrainian refugees. He is already providing free accommodation to 24 Ukrainians at his renovated property in East Soke, near Victoria.
“I couldn’t imagine being where they were,” he said, “so when they called us – you know, they were looking for somewhere to go – luckily we only had room left. “
Victoria Grando, director of the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Victoria, told Vancouver Island CTV News that she has heard of the growing number of Ukrainians hoping to flee Russia.
“[Ini]increasingly dangerous for Ukrainians working there,” Grando said, noting that the center helps direct Ukrainians hoping to flee Russia to online information about Canada.
But often Ukrainians from Russia cannot access these sites due to strict censorship laws.
Jankowski hopes to start over and establish himself in Canada. Lisa, the couple’s six-year-old daughter, starts school next week. Her parents hope to get Canadian health credentials and work in their new home – to save lives again.
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