Edmonton volunteers welcome second wave of Ukrainian arrivals

Ukrainians continue to flee their war-torn homeland amid the Russian invasion, and with the high travel season over and the cost of flights going down, even more are making their way to Alberta.

More than 500 people from Ukraine are arriving in Alberta each week

Couches recently collected in a furniture drive and brought to a warehouse at 15330 114th Ave. in Edmonton. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

Volunteers with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Edmonton say they're facing a second wave of arrivals from war-torn Ukraine.

"The numbers have increased, over 500 a week are arriving to Alberta and about 32 per cent of those people are coming to Edmonton," says Orysia Boychuk, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council.

Many of the others — about 42 per cent — are headed to Calgary, Boychuk says.

Orysia Boychuk has been president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council for three years. (Sam Martin/CBC)

Currently there are an estimated 10,500 recent Ukrainian arrivals in Alberta. People started arriving right after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.

Arrivals slowed in August before numbers increased in September. Boychuk says numbers are expected to remain higher over the next two months.

With the summer travel season over, cheaper flights are now accessible to Alberta. Boychuk says a program called Miles for Migrants is also bringing more people to our province. 

Last weekend, community volunteers held a drive to collect furniture, hoping to give people arriving a more comfortable new beginning. 

 "A mattress, a couch, a kitchen table and some dresser drawers just to get them started," says Boychuk.

Mattresses are the most needed items in the warehouse for people arriving in Edmonton from Ukraine. New towels and sheets are also in high demand. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

You can see more from the Ukrainian Furniture Warehouse on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. on CBC TV and CBC Gem.

But furniture takes up space. Enter the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Lodge 146 and a 23,000 square-foot warehouse.

"We decided we would donate $10,000 of our union funds to the war relief efforts," says Hugh MacDonald, business manager for Boilermakers 146.

When MacDonald and some others from the union local went to drop off the cheque, they realized the small size of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress office. That prompted them to offer up their space to store items.

Hugh MacDonald with Boilermakers Lodge 146 stands in the warehouse space they've donated to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

The Boilermakers Lodge has a warehouse as part of its training centre for members in the welding and boilermaker trades. The union donated space in the building to help store furniture and other household goods. 

"The efforts of the Ukrainian community of northern Alberta do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. You just have to wander in here yourself and you can see the good work they're doing," said MacDonald, a former Liberal MLA. "So if we can help them we will."

Alberta has longstanding ties to Ukraine, with close to 400,000 people of Ukrainian descent. This week the provincial government pledged an additional $10 million to humanitarian aid, bringing the total commitment to date to $23 million. 

Recent arrival Vledyslav Boluban now volunteers regularly at the warehouse — moving, sorting and distributing donated furniture.

"We came here just three months ago, with a few bags and a few things with us, and this warehouse helped us at the beginning significantly," he says. "Now we're trying to help other people."

Vledyslav Boluban arrived in Edmonton three months ago from Ukraine and is now volunteering to help others get furniture at the warehouse at 15330 114th Ave. (CBC)

Boluban has been watching furniture get snapped up almost as fast as it's coming in.

Donations from the public are being accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. until 4 p.m.

The warehouse is closed for the Thanksgiving weekend.


Adrienne Lamb


Adrienne Lamb is the host and producer of Our Edmonton featured weekly on CBC TV. She served for several years as CBC Radio's national arts reporter in Edmonton. Prior to moving to Alberta in 2001, Adrienne worked at CBC in Ontario and New Brunswick. Adrienne is a graduate of Western University with a degree in English and Anthropology and a Masters in Journalism.