More than 300 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have arrived in Halifax

Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Halifax, in 2018. More than 300 Ukrainians seeking refuge in Canada arrived at the airport on the night of June 2.Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

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,” he told reporters Thursday night at the arrivals gate of Halifax International Airport. The two were among 319 Ukrainians on board a plane fleeing the Russian invasion.

Their future four-year-old son, Daniel, was elated. With a small Canadian flag in hand, he jumped on his mother’s luggage.

“He is so excited, he thinks that all the toys are here and the kindergarten is here. He always asks me: ‘I want to stay here for a long time, I want my room.’ He is very excited about it,” he said.

The Aloshas, ​​originally from Boryspil, a city east of Kyiv, were on the third federal government charter flight carrying Ukrainian refugees to Canada.

But the journey of the Aloshas is not over. She and her son are among more than 30 people on this flight 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.

The Halifax-area couple, Coleen and Jean Pierre Martinello, were at the airport early Thursday, anxiously awaiting the arrival of five-year-old Zlata and her mother, Nataliia.

“We can’t wait to hold them in our arms,” ​​said Coleen Martinello.

Martinello met a relative of Zlata and Nataliia last year while they were in Latvia. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, they signed up to receive Ukrainians fleeing the war. He let her Latvian friend know about her plans to host her and contacted Zlata and Nataliia.

The mother and daughter will live in their Middle Sackville home for as long as they need a place to stay.

“In Nova Scotia, there is a lot of homelessness,” Martinello said.

“Then someone asked me how long they’re going to live with you and I said, ‘I don’t know, maybe until the little guy graduates from college,'” he added.

The couple says the entire community is excited for their arrival. Neighbors have left gift baskets, toys, a bike and a car seat for the child.

“We are very excited and overwhelmed,” he said.

Federal Immigration Minister Sean Fraser was among several politicians at the arrivals gate welcoming new arrivals with chocolate, tartan and Canadian flags.

“I hope that our new arrivals feel loved and safe,” Fraser said.

Fraser said that both in his role as a Central Nova MP and immigration minister, the most common emails he receives are from people who want to help support Ukrainians.

“For those newcomers, just know that there are people who want to support you, people who want to do their part because they see this grave injustice on the other side of the world,” he said.

Nova Scotia Immigration Minister Jill Balser said she’s heard many people who traveled Thursday have already connected with Nova Scotians offering lodging.

For those without a place to stay, Balser said hotels will be made available and the federal government will cover two weeks of temporary housing.

Members of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the YMCA and the Nova Scotia Immigrant Services Association were on hand to welcome the new arrivals and connect them with housing, translation and services as needed.

Lyubov Zhyznomirska, vice president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Nova Scotia, said the arrival of more than 300 Ukrainians in Nova Scotia makes her think of the 14 million who have been displaced by the war.

“I hope that we as a community are there for the Ukrainians. I hope they are taken care of while they settle down.”

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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