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Ukrainians starting new lives in Bow Valley

“Displaced Ukrainians and evacuees often arrive with the trauma of suddenly fleeing a war that is ravaging their home country. They’re thinking about family and friends that are still there.”
20220331 Canmore Ukraine Walk10
Riley Stanulis-Bigus poses with Ukrainian flag at the Canmore Civic Centre on Thursday, March 31, 2022. Bigus, whose parents are in Ukraine, always carries the flag and wishes for peace in Ukraine after Russia invaded Ukraine. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

BOW VALLEY – Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began last February, 32,000 Ukrainian evacuees have come to Canada to flee the violence and start a new life a world away from their home.

The Bow Valley is one place Ukrainian evacuees have settled, and the process has been both good and difficult for the new arrivals.

“Displaced Ukrainians and evacuees often arrive with the trauma of suddenly fleeing a war that is ravaging their home country,” said Marissa Zaletel, settlement support worker, Settlement Services In The Bow Valley. “They’re thinking about family and friends that are still there.”

So far, about 50 Ukrainian evacuees have settled in the Bow Valley but the number could be higher and Settlement Services In The Bow Valley (SSBV) wants to help all the new arrivals.

“We believe that there are more, and we encourage employers and residents to help connect them with us right away to ensure a smooth resettlement journey,” Zaletel said.

SSBV aids the settlement of Ukrainians through several resources to make the transition much easier.

“We go through required documents, local resources, understanding government systems, Alberta health care and more,” Zaletel said. “Ukrainians and evacuees from around the world can also receive free one-on-one confidential support and join our free events to connect with the community.”

When Ukrainian evacuees arrived in the Bow Valley, most were given jobs with staff accommodations. Very few were hosted by locals or in private rentals due to the limited housing opportunities in the area.

“As far as we know, all local Ukrainian evacuees are staying in staff accommodation through their workplaces,” Zaletel said. “Even if they arrived here and were first staying with a local host, they’ve later found jobs in hospitality and staff housing. For this reason, singles and couples are best suited to our area.”

The process to settle for the evacuees takes gradual steps over time to settle into their new home. Many are coming with little to no savings, and some have a limited grasp of English. Despite the difficulties, evacuees quickly adapt to their new community.

“As we’ve seen with refugees from around the world who have been living in the Bow Valley for years, they can contribute so much to our community and thrive there,” Zaletel said. “Even more quickly if they’re connected with the local support system.”

Ukrainians coming to Canada do not have refugee status and are referred to as evacuees by the [Canadian government]. As a result, the process of bringing in Ukrainians has differed from bringing in Syrian refugees. Ukrainians began to arrive only a month or two after Russia invaded Ukraine and settled in areas like the Bow Valley immediately, rather than in other areas of Canada and then move to the area after some time.

The process is slower for Syrian refugees, who must wait for refugee status outside of Canada and this can take upwards of a year.

“Once their status is granted, they usually arrive in larger centres such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary and receive different and more comprehensive financial supports from the [Canadian government] due to their official refugee status,” Zaletel said.

As for the Ukrainians who have now settled in the Bow Valley, they are grateful for their new home, even while their thoughts are with friends and family back in Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian evacuees we work with are immensely grateful for the kindness of people here and the supports they’ve received,” Zaletel said. “They’re appreciative of the beauty of our surroundings and they also seem to enjoy our small village-like community that they feel is present throughout our valley.”

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CORRECTION: The original article incorrectly had Bow Valley Immigration Partnership as aiding Ukrainians when it was Settlement Services In The Bow Valley. The article has been updated and the Outlook apologizes for the error.