By Kelsey Honeyman and Victoria Normand, Capilano University
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started earlier this year, Carol Honeyman, a resident of North Vancouver, opened her home to a Ukrainian refugee family. Nataliya (age 35), her son Artem (age 10) and their little dog, Richie, made the difficult decision to leave their community in Kharkiv, Ukraine just days after Russia invaded on 24 February 2022.
Opening Homes To Refugees
Carol, who holds her Ukrainian heritage close to her heart, knew she wanted help in any way she could. She set out on a mission through various websites and social media platforms to find a family who would need housing once they arrived in Canada. After posting on the website Shelter for Ukraine, Carol was able to open her home up to Nataliya and her family while they worked to find permanent housing in Canada.
Back in her home of Kharkiv, Ukraine, Nataliya had completed her master’s degree in Trades and Technology and loved her job in the high-end beauty industry as a Sales Manager. Her son, Artem, was in elementary school.
Education doesn’t transfer easily from Ukraine to Canada, and it’s been difficult for Nataliya to find work that provides a living wage. Artem, who speaks very little English, is enrolled at Eastview Elementary school in Lynn Valley, and is learning how to navigate grade 4 in a completely new language.
Leaving Friends and Family Behind
They uprooted everything they knew to seek shelter in Canada. Nataliya’s 70-year-old mother stayed behind in Ukraine along with many of their friends and loved ones. Others fled to Germany and surrounding countries for refuge. They travelled from Kharkiv to Poland and made their way to Canada. Ukraine is a large country, and travelling from Kharkiv to Poland is over 1,150 kilometres and takes between 16 (car) and 26 (bus) hours to travel in normal conditions.
They left Kharkiv five days after the invasion. They recall hearing war planes flying right over their apartment complex. People have had their lives and goals shattered. They gave up their homes, their livelihoods and their dreams to escape the aggression. They are angry – resilient, but angry.
After arriving in Vancouver, Nataliya and Artem stayed in Downtown Vancouver for two weeks before moving into Carol’s home in North Vancouver. Staying downtown was jarring and unsettling for them, the sirens and busy streets reminding them of the nightmare they had left back in Ukraine.
Full House: Finding a New Home North Vancouver
A black bear visits Carol’s property in North Vancouver from time to time, and the sound of the garbage cans being knocked over in the middle of the night did the same thing. They’re used to the bear now though and were amazed to see one in real life! Nataliya notes that she has fallen in love with how peaceful North Vancouver is.
Carol’s house is definitely full. She has two dogs of her own, as well as a son and her mother living with her, but “the more the merrier” has always been her sentiment! She is delighted to get to know Nataliya and her family, as well as offer a roof over their heads and any support she can.
Despite how difficult their transition to Canada has been, North Vancouver has become a safe space for Nataliya and Artem where they’re able and welcomed to share their food, culture, and stories from their home country until it is safe enough to return. Or perhaps they may end up finding their forever home here in North Vancouver.
Wednesday, 24 August 2022 is Ukrainian Independence Day, the first since the Russian invasion began. The City of North Vancouver will be hosting a Ukrainian flag raising ceremony in Civic Plaza at 10:30am. The public and members of North Vancouver’s Ukrainian community are invited to attend.
During the spring of 2022, students were invited to explore the Museum of North Vancouver to create editorial content inspired by MONOVA’s Archival and Museum collections. Watch for other stories from the students to roll out over the coming months.
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