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Ukrainian refugee in Montreal | “I feel lost and confused”



“I led a quiet life in Ukraine. I had a job, a boyfriend, my family. It was good. Now everything is broken. I feel lost and confused,” Anastasiia drops, her voice quivering.

The 26-year-old Ukrainian arrived in Montreal on the 1er March, after leaving his family behind. Two weeks earlier, however, she was leading a peaceful life as a computer scientist in Lviv, in western Ukraine.

On February 23, the young woman had spent the day with her loved ones to celebrate her 26and birthday. “During the day, I had a good time with my friends, and in the evening, I went to the theatre,” she recalls.

The next morning, his life was turned upside down by the announcement of the start of the war. “When I woke up, I didn’t understand what was going on. I felt completely lost and didn’t know what to do. She hasn’t moved all day. “I was in a state of shock,” she said.

When she decided to take a look outside on Friday, her city was unrecognizable. “Most of the cars were gone and there were people armed to the teeth,” she said.

Grocery store shelves were empty. Couldn’t find a loaf of bread, she said. “I saw fear and awe on the faces of people around me. »

After talking with her mother, she had to face the facts: she had to leave the country immediately. But his family could not accompany him. “My mother wanted to stay to take care of my grandmother,” she says. His cousins, they joined the army voluntarily.

” Chaos ”

The young woman hastened to fill a backpack and a small suitcase. From the first hour on February 27, she was standing on the platform of the train station, in the middle of the crowd. His goal: to go to Poland.

“It was chaos. There was a crowd trying to get on any train. There were a lot of police and armed people. They forbade men to board, because the priority was for women and children,” she says.

Anastasiia spent 12 hours outside in the cold. She finally found a train heading to the neighboring country.

I knew the train was crossing the border, but I didn’t know what town it was going to. I asked people around me, but no one knew.


The train was overloaded. “We were 12 in compartments for 4 people. After an 18-hour journey, she arrived in the small town of Olkusz, a few kilometers from Krakow, Poland. She stayed there for two days.

She now had to choose her host country. His choice fell on Canada. Montreal, specifically.

“I decided to go to Canada, because I already had a visitor’s visa,” she says. During her studies for the baccalaureate in languages ​​and literature in Kyiv, she had carried out several student exchanges, notably in the Netherlands, Italy, France and Greece. She had also taken a language course in Toronto in 2014, which allowed her to obtain a Canadian visa valid for 10 years.

1er March, she flew to Quebec. Montreal friends, whom she had met during an exchange in Paris, were waiting for her when she arrived at Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau airport.

A new life

A week after her arrival, Anastasiia is trying to adjust to her new life. “I am waiting for a work permit. I also need to open a bank account and get a Canadian phone number,” she explains.


Anastasiia, Ukrainian refugee

After staying for a week with her friends, she found a studio in the Old Port of Montreal, where she will stay until Monday. “Then I would like to find something a little bigger and cheaper. It’s expensive in the city center,” she says with a small smile.

For now, she continues her job as a computer scientist in Ukraine remotely. “My salary is not enough to survive in Canada. For the moment, I manage, but I have to find a job in Montreal, otherwise it will be too hard,” she says.

But she’s not too worried. She has already received five job offers in Montreal. All she needs is a work permit, which she hopes to receive soon.

However, it was not without a pang in her heart that she left her family behind. ” I miss my mother. I worry about her,” she said, her eyes watering.

With the collaboration of Lila Dussault, The Press

A different situation from that of Syrian refugees

The reception of Ukrainian nationals in Canada will not be comparable to the arrival of Syrian refugees in 2017, according to the director of the Office for the Integration of Newcomers to Montreal (BINAM), Marie-Christine Ladouceur-Girard. “Most Ukrainians will not be welcomed as refugees, according to the information we have,” said Ladouceur-Girard. They will enter Canada through family reunification programs or as temporary immigrants, they will have tourist visas at the beginning. Asylum seekers are usually looked after for a few days by the Regional Program for the Reception and Integration of Asylum Seekers (PRAIDA). For example, in 2017, Syrian refugees were temporarily housed in a former convent that the City of Montreal had made available to them. This time around, Ukrainians are expected to be cared for mostly by relatives back home. “We do not expect to need large places to accommodate large groups of Ukrainians,” said Ladouceur-Girard.

Isabella Ducas, The Press

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