Three Ukrainian immigrants escaping conflict in their country are calling Winnipeg home, with the road to becoming part of the community fast-tracked by people’s generosity.
Alireza Pourjam moved to Kyiv from Iran for post-secondary education in 2018.
While studying in Ukraine, he met his wife, Kateryna Butylina.
The two were forced to flee their home in Ukraine for Turkiye amid the Russian conflict.
“It was a really hard situation. Just get your things and go really fast because bombs and drones are coming there and you don’t have any choice,” said Pourjam.
The couple wound up in Winnipeg in October, hoping to make a new life here in Canada.
“When I was in the airplane, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t rest. I was thinking I will come here, what should I do? Where should I sleep?” Pourjam recalled.
The pair were picked up from the airport and taken to the province’s reception and welcoming centre.
While in line for health cards, they met fellow Ukrainian Yelsivita ‘Liza’ Hryhorenko.
“There was just one girl there talking, talking, talking. It was Liza,” joked Pourjam.
The three decided to live with each other but were turned down from several apartments since they didn’t have any credit or jobs.
It was when they applied to a social media ad that they met their current landlords, Lisa Telega and Allen Delegelman.
“I was wanting to help people from Ukraine because I’m half Ukrainian. My father came to Canada in 1944 and fled the war in Ukraine,” explained Telega.
“Things have gone so well. They are very hard-working young people.”
On top of taking a chance on her new tenants, Telega put out a call for help online in hopes of getting them some essential items.
Together, the community donated furniture, pots, clothing and groceries.
“Lisa and Allen, they were angels in my life,” said Pourjam. “Really, I can tell this. Canadian people really help us with furniture, couches, tables.”
After securing housing, the three newcomers wanted to find work.
All three were hired at the same catering company, the first jobs they applied for.
“I’m really happy. Maybe I decide to live here for all of my time,” said Pourjam.
To date, The Manitoba government estimates 12,400 Ukrainians have come to the province’s reception and welcoming centre.
It said on a per capita basis, more Ukrainians have come to Manitoba than to any other province.
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