‘I didn’t know what to do, life stopped’: Ukrainian newcomer recall journey from war

“On Feb. 24, 2022, my parents called me and said that the war had begun,” said Anastasiia Chernencko, the Ukrainian newcomer in Regina, Canada.

The war forced Chernencko to leave her homeland and she arrived in Canada three days ago. The number of newly arrived Ukrainians in Canada is increasing every day.

“After I knew that the war had begun, I was just sitting in shock for two hours reading the news,” said Chernencko. “The day before the war, I was walking around Kyiv with my friends, and was excited to start the new job the next day.”

According to the latest UN report, more than 1.7 million civilians have fled Ukraine due to the Russian invasion. The European Union says up to four million people can try to leave.

Chernencko said that together with her two close friends and their children, they decided to go to Poland. This was the closest and safest country.

“When we were leaving Kyiv by car, the children saw tanks and helicopters,” said Chernencko. “When the siren started, we stopped and started to run out of the car to find some shelter. It was very scary.”

Anastasiia Chernenko with her friend going to Poland

“I didn’t have time to take anything with me except money, documents, food and pyjamas,” said Chernencko.

After Anastasiia crossed the Polish border, she and her friends were met by volunteers. They fed them, offered a warm tea and took them to a volunteer centre where all refugees could rest.

“When the Polish volunteers met me for the first time, they gave me a blanket to stay warm,” said Chernencko. “I brought this blanket with me to Canada as a symbol of war and kindness of Polish people.”

Since Feb. 24, 1.9 million people have left Ukraine for Poland, the Polish Border Guard Service said.

“Polish people were generous to me,” said Chernenko. “Their volunteers helped me to find a home where I stayed before my arrival in Canada. I was cooking to thank and help the family who gave me a place to live.”

“Children suffer the most in this war,” said Chernenko.

“When we moved to Poland with my friend’s kids, I saw that one of them drew some pictures of bloodied soldiers,” said Chernenko. “I was shocked.”

The picture of bloodied soldiers drew by children

 

After a month of waiting for a Canadian visa, Anastasiia was able to leave Poland and come to Canada, where her family was waiting for her.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Canada created a Canadian-Ukrainian emergency travel permit that is available for all Ukrainians. There are no restrictions on the number of applications. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the Canadian Government received over 80,000 applications from March 30.

 

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) promised to support new refugees arriving in Saskatchewan with housing, finances and other needs.

Also, Saskatchewan is planning to support Ukrainian refugees by sending delegation to German.

“These families will be able to find new homes in [Saskatchewan],” Alex Brown, the president of UCC told CTV Morning Live Saskatoon.

Also, many Ukrainians are trying to group around Saskatchewan to raise clothes, finances and other needs for newcomers. St. Michael Ukrainian Orthodox Church collected some donated clothing.

“Psychological help is also important,” said Chernencko. “When I was in Poland, I couldn’t hold the mug because my hands were shaking, and only a psychologist could help me.”

Many Ukrainians who have left their home feel guilty about being safe.

“Now it’s only emptiness and fear in Ukrainian people’s eyes because our peace was taken away,” said Chernencko.

 

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