After being displaced by war, some of the first Ukrainian refugees in Canada are settling in the town of Renfrew.

Dasha Zhydnko and her brother Andrew arrived in Renfrew on April 1. They fled kyiv the day Russia invaded, and after spending a month in Poland, found refuge in the Ottawa Valley through Ukrainian Diaspora Support Canada.

“It was very difficult to perceive it, that your life dramatically changed and you’re supposed to start it from scratch,” the 33-year-old Zhydnko told CTV News.

In the month she has been in Canada, Zhydnko has worked to secure a social security number, bank account, and driver’s license. Playing a big part in helping her settle has been Ottawa Valley Coffee owner Josh Curly.

“Having served in the military for eight years now, I kind of felt helpless,” says Curly. “I felt like there was no way to help and then my wife reminded me there are ways to help. You can help right here.”

In recent months, Curly has secured various donations and started to GoFundMe to help Zhydnko start her new life.

“We’re at $4,000 of our $5,000 goal,” says the coffee connoisseur. “And the intention is to use this money on things we may not be able to obtain through donations. Whether it be feminine products or prescriptions, or things that people can’t donate.”

He also found a spare room for Zhydnko to live in.

“I thought, I’ve got a room here that I can share,” Renfrew resident Sandra Eggerstedt told CTV News. “What goes around comes around and I needed to share this room.”

Eggerstedt recalls the same need her father went through coming to Canada as a refugee from Germany. She says her and Zhydnko now share meals and evenings together.

“It’s like we’ve known each other forever,” says Eggerstedt. “It all just fell into place so wonderfully.”

“We already knew that small towns tend to come together, especially in the Ottawa Valley,” says Curly. “But everybody has been so great, so welcoming.”

Zhydnko is now looking to secure a job for herself, hoping to put her masters degree in international trade to use.

“I don’t feel like I’m struggling or something like that, no,” says Zhydnko on her acclimation to Canada. “I feel like I’m part of a community so this is very priceless.”

“I’m amazed about people,” she adds. “I didn’t expect I would feel this here, this way of giving from the citizens.”

The greatest struggle in getting used to Canada Zhydnko says is the weather. Hot one day, cold the next, rain the next.

“In Ukraine it’s more steady,” she notes.

When asked whether she was considering a permanent move to Canada given the climate in her home country, the 33-year-old gave many considerations. The long, drawn out conflict in her home country, the destruction and rebuilding process, and the fact that her parents of her were still in country.

“I understand that it will take some time, so in the near future I will probably stay in Canada.”

Curly says since the arrival of the Zhydnko’s, two other Ukrainian refugee families have arrived in Renfrew, with more on the way.

“The intention is not to stop really.”


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