Manitobans working together to ensure displaced Ukrainians have jobs, housing

Yurii Kashperskyi arrived in Winnipeg last month after being displaced from his home by the war in Ukraine.

Now, the former banker is among nine people from the country who have set up a new life in Blumenort and started work at a factory in the small community, about 45 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg.

“It’s physical work, but it’s work. I need work,” Kashperskyi said. “All people are very nice. It’s a big support for Ukrainians. Thanks to all Canadians for helping Ukrainians.” 

He says he’s looking forward to establishing a new life here, and plans to file for permanent residency to stay in Canada long-term.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, nearly six million people have fled the country for neighbouring countries in Europe, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The federal government says as of late June, more than 50,000 had arrived in Canada. Over 300,000 have applied for temporary resident visas. 

About 2,000 displaced Ukrainians have made Manitoba their home since Russia’s attack began, according to the province.

Nick Krawetz, who volunteers to support the newcomers, says it’s because of the wraparound supports they are receiving.

“They’re coming here because the word is spreading that Manitoba is the place to come to,” he said.

Displaced Ukrainians arrive at the Winnipeg airport in May. The province says about 2,050 Ukrainians have applied for Manitoba Health cards, and there are currently 350 people staying in temporary accommodations arranged by the government. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

In spite of a recent incident in which two Ukrainian refugees were assaulted in Winnipeg, Krawetz said the province offers a safe haven for people fleeing war.

“Our community is focused on welcoming and supporting anybody coming from Ukraine,” he said.

Krawetz says more Ukrainians are coming to Winnipeg every day, including 64 who arrived in one day just last week.

When they arrive, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and provincial workers are at the airport to welcome them and help ensure they have temporary housing, health care and a number of other supports.

A provincial spokesperson said around 2,050 Manitoba Health cards have been issued to Ukrainian newcomers so far.

The government is providing temporary housing for those without connections in the province, and approximately 350 rooms are currently booked, the spokesperson said. About 1,200 people have stayed in temporary accommodations since April 25.

‘Amazing pool of talent’

There is also some support in the private sector, with one business owner calling on local entrepreneurs to follow his example and start hiring newcomers from Ukraine.

Mark Myrowich, whose company manufactures products to stop erosion on construction sites, has hired 14 people from Ukraine — including Kashperskyi. In addition to the nine working at the company’s factory in Blumenort, five others are working at its factory in Riverton, in Manitoba’s Interlake. Myrowich has plans to hire at least five more.

“When I realized that there was many Ukrainians coming to Canada, I thought, well, how can I help them?” said Myrowich, the chief executive officer of ECBVerdyol.

Mark Myrowich, the CEO of ECBVerdyol, says there’s enthusiasm for supporting Ukrainians coming to Manitoba. ‘The community is fantastic here in rural Manitoba,’ he says. (Anne-Louise Michel/Radio-Canada)

His grandparents immigrated to Manitoba from Ukraine during the First World War.

“I’m sure at that time somebody had helped them. I feel that my duty is to pay it forward and help Ukrainians that are settling in Canada now. What I can give them is jobs,” he said.

Employers might see it as a hassle to hire people who may not yet speak English very well, but Myrowich says it’s been quite easy to communicate with his new employees using technology like Google Translate.

“If there’s other entrepreneurs or business people out there, really consider this amazing pool of talent that’s coming to this country right now, and don’t let language get in the way of hiring them,” Myrowich said.

He says he’s working with a local church to ensure his new employees have help to find housing, transportation and access to other local services.

There’s a seemingly endless enthusiasm for supporting the newcomers, he said.

“Every time I think they’re full, they find more room. They’re very, extremely generous people. The community is fantastic here in rural Manitoba.”

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By Jon Doe