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 newly adopted country.

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

A reunion full of emotions.

Photo Martin Alarie

A reunion full of emotions.

Like about 300 of her compatriots, she took a Canadian government-chartered flight from Warsaw to Montreal yesterday.

About 300 Ukrainians were eagerly awaited by a crowd of relatives, host families and representatives of civil society organisations.

Photo Martin Alarie

About 300 Ukrainians were eagerly awaited by a crowd of relatives, host families and representatives of civil society organisations.

“We are pleased to welcome them, but we must not forget that they come from an area at war,” said Orysia Krucko, spokesman for the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress.

thunderous applause

As 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’s immigration minister, Jean Boulet, and foreign minister, Mélanie Joly, also welcomed the newcomers.

Quebec's immigration minister, Jean Boulet.

Photo Martin Alarie

Quebec’s immigration minister, Jean Boulet.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly.

Photo Martin Alarie

Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly.

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

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

Other travelers were referred to a hotel for 14 days of free stay.

But as soon as they arrived, some were already planning to leave Quebec and go to Calgary, Toronto or Ottawa 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.

Spoiled 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 owners, these Ukrainian cats and dogs — including at least one pug, a French bulldog and several chihuahuas — landed in Quebec on Sunday.

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


The Ukrainian community planned everything so that its subjects wouldn’t be too out of place when they got here, from singing the Ukrainian national anthem to traditional bread.

Dressed in a beautiful embroidered blouse, Vlada Polishchuk waited for newcomers with a korovaica carefully decorated Ukrainian ritual bread.

“Traditionally, it has been a symbol of welcome,” explains the young woman associated with the Ukrainian-Canadian Congress.

At his side, Quebecers of Ukrainian descent shortly after sang their motherland’s national anthem titled Ukraine is not dead yet

During this time, trilingual interpreters ensured that the refugees who did not speak English or French were properly guided.


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 yesterday.

The latter fled the Lviv area to hide in Poland with her daughter for months, before finally taking a trip to Canada to stay with her other daughter.

“We are already planning to adopt a kitten so she doesn’t get bored here,” Ivanka said.


The war forced a small Ukrainian family to flee through 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, together with her husband Yevhen and their son Ivan.

As a last resort, they left the city of Melitopol, in the southeast of the country, on April 4 with their dog Bafi. 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 decide to leave,” said the family’s father.


Dmytro and Oksana’s large family will be able to live comfortably in a house thanks to a couple from Repentigny who leave it to them and go camping for the summer 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 lives easier,” said Mr Chenard, as he waited for his protégés to arrive in the company of his daughter, his son-in-law and a few Ukrainians to help them communicate.

The meeting between all eventually led to hugs in a cheerful mixture of Russian, Ukrainian, English and French.

“The most important thing for us was to save the children and then give them an education,” Dmytro Mariichuk testified with gratitude.

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