In broken English, Nina Kucheruk takes a coffee order at the Humble Bean in Castlegar. It’s her first day on the job and in spite of all she has gone through, she has a smile on her face.
The Ukrainian refugee fled her home in Kyiv several months ago and has only been in Castlegar for just over a week. She has come with her eight-year-old daughter Katya, her mother-in-law Iryna and her 12-year-old brother-in-law Ivan. Her husband has stayed behind to assist with the security of Kyiv.
After spending her life in big cities, Kucheruk was hesitant at first when the placement agency assisting her with relocating to Canada said she would be better off in a small town. But that small town is what has put a smile on her face today.
In a very short amount of time, the community has rallied to assist the family. A permanent home has been found, donations to furnish the home have been pouring in, and Kucheruk has found a job.
“People are so nice, so good and they don’t know us. The doors are always open and people want to help us,” said Kucheruk through tears. “I want to say thank you to all the people in this town.
“I see so many people who help, and don’t ask for something back.”
Initially, the family went to Poland, hoping the war would end quickly and they could return home. But eventually Kucheruk says they had to accept the reality that the war would be long.
With her husband remaining behind in Kyiv, the decision to leave for Canada was difficult.
Kucheruk says her husband told her, “You must not think about me, you must think about our daughter.”
She says many of her friends and acquaintances in Ukraine that do not have children have stayed in the country, but those with children are leaving.
The family then spent weeks gathering documents and filling out forms. Kucheruk’s daughter did not have a passport, which added complications.
“It was a long process, because many people want to go to Canada,” said Kucheruk.
Once the family arrived in Canada, they had to spend two weeks in quarantine in Vancouver. There they received assistance securing medical exams, SIN numbers and cell phones.
“It may seem so little, but for me it was not,” said Kucheruk who has been overwhelmed at times by the kindness of others.
But Kucheruk misses her husband, her family and her homeland, so sometimes her smile fades.
“I try not to be discouraged, because I know I can not go home” she says. “But I have a daughter, and I do not want her to be scared because I am scared. If I smile, she smiles.”
She also says the move is a little easier on her than the rest of the family, because she at least speaks some English where they do not.
“For them, it is difficult.”
But the children are enjoying the wide open spaces Castlegar has to offer.
“She likes the dogs, the big spaces — here she can go anywhere,” Kucheruk says of Katya who has also been introduced to chickens and other animals.
Back in Ukraine, Kucheruk was a pharmacist. Plans have already been made to start the process for her to get her credentials recognized here in Canada, but the process will take some time. While she waits, Kucheruk is pursuing a potential opportunity to work as a pharmacy assistant in the area.
Kucheruk’s family has found temporary housing with Svea Menard while their permanent house is being prepared. If you would like to assist in any way, contact Svea at 250-608-4167 to find out what is still needed.