Manitoba families prepare to host Ukrainian refugees, but say governments need to speed up process

Hundreds have put their names forward to put up complete strangers in their homes, but many logistics still need to be worked out.

More than 700 Manitobans have signed up to host refugees through Ukrainian Canadian Congress

Daria, left, and Demyan, on either side of their son, Danylo, and Zorianna Hyworon stand in one of the apartments they hope will soon be home to a Ukrainian refugee family. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Daria and Demyan Hyworon walk through one of their empty, two-bedroom rental apartments in Winnipeg, hoping that in just weeks it will become a new home for a Ukrainian refugee family.

Daria points out that one room will easily fit bunk beds — perfect for multiple children. 

The couple, who are Ukrainian themselves and speak the language, have put their names forward to house up to four refugee families in their vacant rental units in Winnipeg for free.

"There was no thinking. It was automatic ... You step up when you need to step up."

If there's a need, the family is ready to host more people in their family home.

"They'll be like an extension of our family," Daria said.

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The Hyworon family says it will host at least four Ukrainian refugee families in Winnipeg. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

The refugee crisis hits hard for Hyworons. Demyan's mother Zorianna is a refugee herself. She fled to Canada from Ukraine in 1949 and says what is happening now feels all too familiar.

"This is a lot of déjà vu-vu," Zorianna said.

"I know first hand what the trauma is of families trying to rebuild their lives. Some families managed to get on their feet, and some are traumatized and never recover."

Ukrainians welcome in Manitoba

While the refugees will likely first stop in larger centres like Toronto, Ukrainians on the Prairies hope some will make their way west.

The Manitoba chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress says they've heard from more than 170 displaced Ukrainian families who are interested in coming to Manitoba.

The group also put out a request last week asking for anyone who might be interested in putting up a family. In just three days, more than 700 Manitobans signed up.

Zorianna Hyworon says the escalating violence in Ukraine feels all too familiar. She fled the country and settled in Canada in 1949. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

"I'm so moved by this that I cannot even express how I feel because it's just beyond any expectation," said Dmytro Malyk, who is helping head up the efforts to house Ukrainian refugees in Manitoba.

The outpouring of support was so massive, the group had to temporarily suspend applications so that they could figure out how to make it happen.

Screening, matching and coordinating hundreds of refugees will be a huge feat for the cultural organization run by volunteers, with no experience settling hundreds of people.

Malyk said they are in talks with the provincial government and other refugee resettlement organizations, but are hoping the province will offer support on settling the refugees.

"We don't know how long this war is going to continue, right? Hopefully it's going to be over soon... but if not, we'll need even more help," he said.

So far, the Manitoba government has committed to spending $650,000 to help with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, but has not yet committed funds to helping with refugee resettlement.

A spokesperson from the premier's office said in an email on Sunday the province is working on a plan to accept as many Ukrainians as possible. A steering committee has been set up to plan for a large number of refugees, including what services they might need.

The Hyworon family knows they'll need to figure out things like making sure families have food, clothing, furniture, healthcare, and schools for children to go to.

But they say they'll deal with that as it comes. They want the federal government to speed up the process to bring Ukraine refugees here. The situation is escalating quickly.

"People need to come over right now. "There are people that are physically dying right now," Daria said.

Demyan adds: "They're being slaughtered ... The paperwork can catch up."

Manitoba families prepare to host Ukrainian refugees

2 years ago
Duration 2:23
While the refugees will likely first stop in larger centres like Toronto, Ukrainians on the Prairies hope some will make their way west.


Marina von Stackelberg is a senior reporter at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter and host in Winnipeg, with earlier stints in Halifax and Sudbury. Her stories regularly appear across the country on CBC Radio and CBC News Network. Connect with her by email at or on social media @CBCMarina.