'We're slowly settling in': How this Ukrainian family is adjusting to their new life in London, Ont.

VItaliy Borisenko, his wife Anastasia, and their five-year-old daughter Uliana found friends for life in their hosts, Londoners Lisa McPhee and her husband John, after arriving in Canada on Jun. 18.

'It might look like it's easy to come here but mentally it's hard to adjust to,' says Vitaliy Borisenko

Vitaliy Borisenko, his wife Anastasia, and their five-year-old daughter have found a strong sense of community and support since arriving in London, Ont. (Ukraine Help Middlesex Facebook)

When Vitaliy Borisenko and his family moved to London Ont., after fleeing their home in Ukraine less than a month ago, they had no idea what to expect and how they would settle in a new country.

Since their arrival in Canada on Jun. 18, Borisenko, his wife Anastasia, and their five-year-old daughter Uliana have been trying to get used to their new life in a different environment. 

"It's safe, but everything here is different," he said. "It might look like it's easy to come here but mentally it's hard to adjust to, you have to set up your life and think about your future."

Borisenko currently works at a cleaning company, a job he secured prior to his arrival. He's also in the process of getting his drivers' license because without it, he's having trouble getting around the city.

"If you have no car it's hard to move and we don't know the city too well yet, and it's also hard to get the public transport all the time for all our needs," he said. 

Viltaliy Borisenko and his family are adjusting to their new life in London. (Submitted by Lisa McPhee)

Before the war upended their lives, Borisenko used to work on a cruise ship, which is where he was when the war broke out.

"My contract started three days before the war, and it's hard when all your relatives are back home and you're in quarantine on the ship and all you can do is just see the news about the war but not to do anything to help them. It was very stressful," he said. 

Borisenko's from the northeast city of Sumy which neighbours the Russian border. His entire family including his parents, siblings and grandparents are still back home and fear for their lives.

"The Russians bomb our village everyday," he said. "People send me messages saying we live only today, don't plan your future because we might not be here alive tomorrow."

London's welcoming community

When the family came to London, they weren't aware they would be welcomed with such open arms. Borisenko said he was pleasantly surprised to see what a strong and warm international community the city had.

They also made lifelong friends with their hosts, Londoners Lisa McPhee and her husband John, who decided to house the couple after finding them on a Facebook group that aids Ukrainian refugees. 

"We're truly blessed to be in a safe country and when we knew people were coming to Canada looking for a home, there was no question to offer our home up to a family that needed it," McPhee said. "It warmed our hearts in a way that you just can't explain."

There's a lot of changes the family is going through and McPhee says it's very satisfying being able to help them in any capacity they can.

Londoners Lisa McPhee and her husband John Shelley are hosting the Borisenko family. (Submitted by Lisa McPhee)

McPhee also registered Uliana in a summer camp where she's making lots of friends, which Borisenko is grateful for after seeing how difficult the transition from Ukraine to Canada was for his daughter. 

"For a kid it's very hard maybe more than us," he said. "She's always around adults and we think kids don't understand but we see how depressed she can get."

Borisenko says the couple is slowly settling in and they hope to buy their own home sometime soon. In the meantime Anastasia is taking English lessons and applying for jobs while they get ready for Uliana to start school in September. 

Five-year-old Uliana at her first ever Canada day event at London's Covent Garden Market. (Submitted by Lisa McPhee)


Isha Bhargava is a multiplatform reporter for CBC News. She's worked for Ontario newsrooms in Toronto and London. She loves telling current affairs and human interest stories. You can reach her at or on Twitter @isha__bhargava