Ukrainian mother Yevheniia Alosha says arriving in Canada from Poland with her three-year-old son is overwhelming and brings her family closer to finding some peace.
“It’s amazing, I have no words for this. It’s really good,” she told reporters Thursday evening at the arrivals gate of Halifax International Airport. The two were among 319 Ukrainians who were aboard a plane as they fled the Russian invasion.
Her soon-to-be four-year-old son Daniiel was elated. With a small Canadian flag in hand, he bounced on his mom’s luggage.
“He is so excited, he thinks all the toys are here and kindergarten is here. He’s always asking me: `I want to stay here long, I want my room.’ He’s very excited about it,” she said.
The Aloshas, originally from Boryspil, a city east of Kyiv, were on the federal government’s third chartered flight carrying Ukrainian refugees to Canada.
But the Aloshas’ journey is not over. She and her son are among more than 30 people from this flight that will make their way to Newfoundland and Labrador. Alosha plans to settle in St. John’s.
“I hope to work. My son will go to kindergarten and we will have some peace,” she said.
Halifax-area couple Coleen and Jean Pierre Martinello were at the airport early Thursday, eagerly awaiting the arrival of five-year-old Zlata and her mother, Nataliia.
“We can’t wait to hold them in our arms,” Coleen Martinello said.
Martinello met a relative of Zlata and Nataliia’s last year while in Latvia. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, they signed up to host Ukrainians fleeing the war. She let their Latvian friend know about their plans to host, and was connected with Zlata and Nataliia.
The mother and daughter will be living at their Middle Sackville home for as long as they need a place to stay.
“In Nova Scotia, there’s very much a lack of housing,” Martinello said.
“So someone asked me how long are they going to live with you and I said: `I don’t know, maybe until the little one graduates university,’” she added.
The couple says the whole community is excited about their arrival. Neighbours have dropped off gift baskets, toys, a bicycle, and a car seat for the child.
“We’re so excited and overwhelmed,” she said.
Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser was among a number of politicians at the arrivals gate welcoming newcomers with chocolate, tartan and Canadian flags.
“I hope our new arrivals feel that they are loved and feel that they’re safe,” Fraser said.
Fraser said in both his role as the MP for Central Nova and immigration minister, the most common emails he gets are from people who want to help support Ukrainians.
“To those new arrivals, just know there are people who want to support you, people who want to do their part because they see this grave injustice playing out on the other side of the world,” he said.
Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Jill Balser said she heard that many people travelling Thursday have already connected with Nova Scotians offering housing.
For those who do not have a place to stay, Balser said hotels will be made available and the federal government will cover two weeks of temporary housing.
Members from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the YMCA, and Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia were present to welcome the newcomers and connect them with housing, translation and services as needed.
Lyubov Zhyznomirska, vice-president of Ukrainian Canadian Congress Nova Scotia, said the arrival of more than 300 Ukrainians to Nova Scotia makes her think about the 14 million who have been displaced by the war.
“I hope we as a community are there for Ukrainians. I hope that they will be taken care of as they settle.”
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.