Ukrainians in B.C. look back on the year since Russia invaded Ukraine
Candlelight vigils to be held in multiple locations across the province Friday
A year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, those who fled the country and found refuge in B.C. share their story.
In Victoria, where roughly 1,000 Ukrainians have made a home for themselves, Diana Budiachenko and Max Shkurupii spoke with CBC's All Points West host Jason D'Souza about adjusting to life in Canada.
Shkurupii, who spent half a year in Portugal before moving to Victoria with his wife and two children in November, says when the war broke out, they needed to act fast and make life-changing decisions.
"My first goal was to protect the kids and to bring them to safety … to move to another place, to a safer place and to keep the children away from the missiles, away from the air sirens," he said.
Three months later, he says he is happy his children have made new friends and adapted to their new school environment.
"We're really happy that they were able to adjust to the local system really quickly," he said.
Budiachenko, who lived in Romania for five months before moving to Victoria with her mother in August, says she couldn't believe that the war had broken out and had to check the news to confirm it.
"We heard explosions," she said. "It was one of those cities where first explosions happened, around 4 or 5 a.m. in the morning.
"Everybody was waiting for instructions [on] what to do next … That's really nerve-wracking," she said.
She says Canada's simplified immigration process for Ukrainians made it easy for them to move to the country from Romania, where they faced language barriers.
They found a host in Victoria who helped them resettle in the island community
"The Ukrainian community here is very helpful and local people are very friendly and helpful as well."
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According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, since the start of 2022, more than 132,000 Ukrainian nationals have entered Canada, with the provincial government saying more than 11,000 have settled in B.C.
On Friday, both Budiachenko and Shkurupii say they will be thinking about family left behind in Ukraine.
"We hope that, finally, this war will end and [end] the suffering of millions of people," Shkurupii said.
"We always pray for Ukraine and we want Ukraine to stay strong as it is right now."
'Our souls are still in Ukraine'
Mykhailo Pluzhnikov, who has built a new life in Prince George, B.C., with his wife and three children, said a candlelight vigil would be held Thursday evening at city hall to remember victims of the war, and to stand in solidarity with those fighting on the frontlines.
"Even though our bodies are here in Canada, our souls are still in Ukraine," he said.
Pluzhnikov and his family moved to Vancouver in September and resettled in Prince George in December.
He says 65 Ukrainian families have settled in the northern B.C. city, and more are expected to arrive in the coming months. Share Hope, a society set up to help resettle Ukrainian refugees in Prince George, says more than 167 people have arrived in the city over the past year with more arriving every month.
He adds that not only is housing expensive in bigger cities like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, but he also says the job market is very competitive.
"I wasted the whole three months looking for a job in Vancouver, the same as my wife. In Prince George, we did that in one month," he said.
More importantly, he says, they have found a community they can lean on in Prince George.
From the moment they landed at the airport, he says the people of Prince George have helped him with paperwork, finding housing, jobs, clothes, schools and child care.
"You don't feel yourself alone," he said.
Candlelight vigils to mark the year will be held in multiple locations across the province Friday evening, including in Vancouver, Victoria, Vernon, Parksville, Comox Valley, Chilliwack, Langley and Kelowna.
With files from All Points West