Ukrainian mom and daughter find comfort in Cambridge, Ont., after bumpy welcome to Canada
'I didn't have hope at all a week ago, but now I do,' Alena Neklyudova says
A mother and daughter from Ukraine thought they had secured a place to live in Canada to escape the war in their home country. But they ended up being scammed out of $2,000 and stranded at the airport in Toronto.
Alena Neklyudova and her nine-year-old daughter, Sasha Volkova, left their family behind, including Neklyudova's husband and a 19-year-old son, who have been conscripted to fight for Ukraine during the Russian invasion.
While still in Ukraine, they shuttled from place to place to avoid the war, taking shelter from bombs in a friend's apartment building or in random basements.
"I still have nightmares from it," Sasha told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo.
They travelled through Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria before ending up in Turkey — all in one night — before catching a flight to Toronto in March.
Neklyudova said she pre-paid $2,000 to arrange for a place to stay in Montreal before she and her daughter flew to Canada. The package deal included a pickup in Toronto, transportation to Montreal and temporary housing.
But when they landed at Pearson International Airport on March 17, no one was there to greet them, and it became clear that whoever took her money was not going to show up.
With nowhere to go, Neklyudova made a frantic post on the Facebook page Canada-Hosts Ukrainians, asking for help.
Dozens of people responded to her message, including "Sergey" in Cambridge, Ont. CBC News has agreed to grant him confidentiality because of concerns about security and safety.
Sergey discovered Neklyudova's post while scanning various Facebook groups to learn how he could help the refugee effort in Ukraine.
"This was literally an SOS call, like 'Save Our Selves' because they really didn't have anywhere to go," he said.
Sergey speaks Russian and also has relatives in Ukraine who have been affected by the war. He said after a quick introduction and exchange of information, he went to the airport the next day to pick up the pair.
"When she came here, both of them, they looked disoriented," he said.
"Like, 'Where are we? What are we doing here? Should we maybe go back?'" Sergey said, translating for Neklyudova.
'They actually started smiling'
Neklyudova and her daughter have been staying with Sergey and his family of six for almost two weeks. He has helped her get settled, whether it's driving them to appointments or enrolling Sasha in school.
Sasha said she's excited to go back to school but admits she's a little nervous. Neklyudova is also eager to find work and improve her English.
"I am very happy," Neklyudova said since connecting with Sergey and his family.
"They actually started smiling after being here and connecting with some people in the community and even with our neighbours," Sergey added.
Neklyudova said she's thankful with how supportive the community has been since they arrived in Cambridge and hopes she can reunite with her family once things settle in Ukraine.
"I didn't have hope at all a week ago, but now I do," she said.
As for the $2,000, there's little hope of seeing that again.
- An earlier version of this story contained a typographical error in the daughter's name.Apr 03, 2022 10:04 AM ET