Carleton Place, Ont. couple working to bring Ukrainian families to Ottawa Valley

Two weeks ago, 24-year-old Mary Mokrushyna was paralyzed with worry. She couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep as Russia invaded her homeland of Ukraine.

Her new, happy life in the town of Carleton Place, Ont. was such a contrast to what friends and family were facing at home.

Mokrushyna, who came to Canada in 2018, had to take some time off from her job at The Floral Boutique, a Carleton Place flower shop. It was hard to see the beauty in the blossoms around her when her fellow Ukrainians were struggling to survive.

“It was a bouquet of emotions,” she says.

“I was surprised in the most horrible way. It was heartbreaking. I was so angry and I had to strike a balance between loving your people and hating the war.”

The people closest to Mokrushyna were in peril. Her mother de ella Olga, her 12-year old sister Alisa and eight-year old brother Petro lived in Cherkasy in central Ukraine, 180 kilometers south of Kyiv.

Desperate to get them safely here to Canada, Mary and her partner, Zack Nethery, an IT specialist, planned to do everything in their power to finance that and make it work.

That mission has turned into a movement.

It was Nethery’s mom who first turned to the kindness of Ottawa Valley neighbours. That kindness snowballed. People are turning a sense of helplessness into action.

“We originally started when my mother, Sue Nethery, reached out to the Carleton Place community for support in us flying Olga and her kids (Mary’s family) to us, to get away from the conflict,” says Nethery, a tireless volunteer whose office is filled with bins of donated items.

“We asked for clothing to help them start their new life as well. The outpouring of support was amazing, to the point where another family offered their home to a new family.

“We then started looking to see if a second Ukrainian family wanted to come here for a new life, and it snowballed from there. We have a full system of English as a second language teachers, lawyers, doctors, pharmacists and therapists in the town offering their support to the incoming people for free,” he said.

Nethery said so far, they have gathered enough money to fund 15 people, and they are working to involve other towns in Lanark County.

All of the fundraising is through carebridge, a non-profit community agency Lanark County. If you wish to have you donate support helping Ukrainian refugee families, you can message “Ukraine” with your donation.

Mary Mokrushyna and her partner Zack Nethery are working to bring Ukrainian refugees to Canada. (Courtesy Zack Nethery)Mokrushyna and Nethery have been so moved by the donations and offers of help.

“They saw there was a need and rallied around us in a way we didn’t even anticipate. We are going to be able to save lives and pull people out of the crisis area because of their generosity,” says Nethery.

“People in Almonte, Perth, Renfrew, Arnprior, Smiths Falls, and Cap have all expressed a willingness to help support a family.”

Mokrushyna’s family is now in Warsaw, Poland, awaiting the processing of visas.

This young woman, who came to Canada to study fine art, both beams and tears up at the thought of reuniting with them here.

While the couple awaits their arrival, waking hours are spent raising funds, collecting donations and working to match other Ukrainian families with families in the Ottawa Valley.

The feeling of community warmth will have an additionally warm glow Friday evening. The Carleton Place community will come together at a candlelight vigil called: ‘Light for Ukraine’ at 7 Beckwith St, Carleton Place (called Market Square) at 7 pm

Updates on Nethery and Mokrushyna’s efforts can be found here.

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