War in Ukraine: refugees welcomed with open arms by Quebec

The Ukrainian refugees on the first charter flight to land in Quebec shed a few tears and breathed a sigh of relief as they set foot in their new adopted country.

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“Now I only hope for rest and peace. We are so tired of hearing the bomb alert sirens all day long…”, testified Dariia Berezhna, who until recently studied psychology in Kyiv.

A reunion filled with emotions.

Photo Martin Alarie

A reunion filled with emotions.

Like about 300 of her compatriots, she took a flight chartered by the Canadian government from Warsaw to Montreal on Sunday.

About 300 Ukrainians were eagerly awaited by a crowd made up of relatives, host families and representatives of community organizations.

Photo Martin Alarie

About 300 Ukrainians were eagerly awaited by a crowd made up of relatives, host families and representatives of community organizations.

“We are excited to welcome them, but we must remember that they come from a region at war,” said Orysia Krucko, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

thunderous applause

Proof of this enthusiasm, the first small family to arrive was greeted with thunderous applause and wreaths of flowers in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Quebec Immigration Minister Jean Boulet and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly also welcomed the newcomers.

Quebec Immigration Minister Jean Boulet.

Photo Martin Alarie

Quebec Immigration Minister Jean Boulet.

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

Photo Martin Alarie

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly.

“The welcome is really very touching”, slipped Dmytro Mariichuk, surrounded by his wife and five children exhausted by the trip.

Most of the refugees were then cared for by relatives or a host family, during emotional encounters or reunions.

Other travelers were directed to a hotel for a 14-day free stay.

But as soon as they arrived, some were already planning to leave Quebec for Calgary, Toronto or Ottawa, found The newspaper.

Canada has scheduled three charter flights for Ukrainians. The first landed earlier this week in Winnipeg and a third is expected in Halifax.

Pampered Animals

About twenty pets were also given a special welcome thanks to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

After a grueling journey with their masters, these Ukrainian cats and dogs — including at least one pug, a French bulldog and several Chihuahuas — landed in Quebec on Sunday.

“The flight is very stressful for them too, especially if they are traveling in the hold,” said Laurence Massé, director of communications for the Montreal SPCA.


The Ukrainian community had planned everything so that its nationals would not be too out of place when they arrived here, from singing the Ukrainian anthem to traditional bread.

Dressed in a magnificent embroidered blouse, Vlada Polishchuk waited for new arrivals wearing a korovaia carefully decorated Ukrainian ritual bread.

“Traditionally, it’s a symbol of welcome,” explains the young woman associated with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

At his side, Quebecers of Ukrainian origin sang shortly after the national anthem of their mother country entitled Ukraine is not dead yet.

During this time, trilingual interpreters made sure to properly direct the refugees who spoke neither English nor French.


A 27-year-old Ukrainian woman who had not seen her grandmother for three years found her at the Montreal airport.

Ivanka, who preferred not to mention her last name, was finally reunited with her 84-year-old grandmother on Sunday.

The latter fled the surroundings of Lviv to take refuge with her daughter in Poland for many months, before finally undertaking a trip to Canada to come and stay with her other daughter.

“We have already planned to adopt a kitten so that she does not get bored here,” said Ivanka.


The war forced a small Ukrainian family to flee across much of Europe before finally arriving in Montreal.

“We were in Turkey, Georgia, Poland … In total, we crossed 10 countries in two weeks”, breathes Olena Kozmenko, alongside her spouse Yevhen and their son Ivan.

As a last resort, they left the city of Melitopol, in the south-east of the country, with their dog Bafi on April 4. From the first hours of the invasion, the municipal authorities capitulated to the Russians.

“We hoped for the victory of the Ukrainian soldiers, but we had to resolve to leave”, testifies the father of the family.


The large family of Dmytro and Oksana will be able to live comfortably in a house thanks to a couple from Repentigny who will leave it to them and spend the summer camping instead.

The two Ukrainians and their five children — Anastasia, twins Daniil and Nikita, Andrii and Mia — will breathe a little thanks to the generosity of Louise Jalbert and Roger Chenard, who can be seen in the photo.

“It makes us happy, if it can make their life easier,” said Mr. Chenard, while waiting for the arrival of his protégés in the company of his daughter, his son-in-law and a couple of Ukrainians for help them communicate.

The meeting between all finally gave rise to hugs in a joyful mixture of Russian, Ukrainian, English and French.

“The most important thing for us was to save the children, then to be able to give them an education”, testified Dmytro Mariichuk, grateful.

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