A Ukrainian family has found refuge in Barrie, Ont. after months of driving across Europe searching for a safe place to stay.

“We hear everyone should go to a safe space,” an emotional Anna Tyrtyshnyy said.

On Feb. 23, as sirens rang through the streets of Odessa, Olexiy Tyrtyshnyy and his young family grabbed what they could and fled the country.

“When you are not a soldier, it is very hard to take a gun and start shooting,” he said.

Tyrtyshnyy and his wife Anna drove for hours, stopping in Chișinău, Moldova, before carrying on to Lasi, Romania, where they stayed for a week.

“We don’t know where we are going. We don’t know what we should do,” Anna recalled.

The couple then packed up their car and two young children and made the 1,700-kilometre drive to Cassola, Italy, near Venice, to stay with family.

After several weeks of being unable to speak the language, they decided it was time to leave Italy and hit the road once again.

The couple said they began looking for a place to stay in Canada and pinpointed Barrie, Ont. as a potential landing spot.

Anna admitted they never expected to end up in Canada, let alone Simcoe County, but after securing immigration visas, the Tyrtyshnyy’s connected with the Jeffery family using the website ICanHelpHost.

The family arrived on Saturday night in Toronto.

Olexiy said they were stunned by the Barrie family’s generosity.

“They said it’s nothing. It’s all free.”

“These are the best people in [the] whole world,” Anna said.

While their two children, ages six and nine, settle into their new environment after a harrowing journey, the Jeffery’s hope to help them get into school.

“There are only six weeks left in the term, but maybe that’s just right. They’ll get in and see what it’s like and be with kids their age,” said Russ Jeffery.

According to the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB), over 30 children from Ukraine have registered for school in the region.

Most have settled in Bradford, but Barrie has become a temporary home for many.

“All of the teachers are trained for English language learners, and we also have central to provide an extra hand if necessary if the student needs extra support,” said Tatiana Khrystynko, a Continuing Education Program Coordinator for SCDSB.

The school board said that children could be in the classroom within days once they are registered.

Tyrtyshnyy said he’s looking forward to his children being immersed in Canadian culture and improving their English.

In the meantime, both parents told CTV News they are focused on finding work, not only for financial reasons but to take their minds off the war back in their homeland.


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