Volunteers ready to help make Winnipeg a home for 350 Ukrainian refugees

Supporters are getting ready to welcome more than 300 Ukrainian refugees arriving in Winnipeg on a federal charter flight Monday.

Ukrainian Canadian Congress' local chapter teaming up with provincial and federal governments to offer support

A board with sunflowers attached to it and a sign with a Ukrainian flag on it stand inside a building.
Sunflowers and smiling faces will greet Ukrainian refugees who are set to arrive in Winnipeg on Monday afternoon. Volunteers with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Manitoba Provincial Council will help newcomers access resources and connect with any family they have. (Ukrainian Canadian Congress - Manitoba Provincial Council/Facebook)

Supporters are getting ready to welcome more than 300 Ukrainian refugees arriving in Winnipeg on a federal charter flight Monday.

Local volunteers with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress will be at the airport to do everything from translating for customs officials to helping reunite families to arranging food and accommodations.

"We want to make sure that they are feel welcome here in our city, in our province, in our country. And when once they take their first step off the plane, they will have access to a full range of supports and services to our community," said Nick Krawetz, who volunteers at the Ukrainian Refugee Reception Centre near the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport.

Since April 15, volunteers have been working around the clock to staff the reception centre operating out of the Best Western hotel. To date, they have helped 400 Ukrainians, and will nearly double that number after Monday.

Krawetz says it'll have to be an all hands on deck day for the volunteers and it's likely to be very emotional, especially because they're expecting roughly 100 children to be in the group.

Lt.-Col. Terry Cherwick, right, a Canadian forces chaplain, speaks to a Ukrainian refugee outside of the central train station in Warsaw. Later on Monday, about 350 Ukranians will arrive from Poland, volunteer Nick Krawetz says. (Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

The Ukrainians are arriving through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program, which comes with a work visa, triggering the availability of a provincial health card and related services.

Halyna Shtoyko is helping co-ordinate at the volunteer desk and says she can't imagine doing nothing while fellow Ukrainians are suffering.

"It's the one thing that I can do from here. I obviously can't help with the war effort. I can't volunteer to help all the displaced people in Ukraine. But I can help the ones that are coming here," she said.

"I feel like every single Ukrainian out there is a family member for me. And just like you would help a family member, you help your people, and they really need it right now."

Shtoyko recognizes there will be challenges for the newcomers, but hopes people locally will step up to help the refugees make a life in Canada.

The work isn't done after Monday, Krawetz said. There are thousands of Ukrainians still displaced and in need of assistance.

"We are ready and we are positioned to welcome them and we certainly hope it's not the first flight, but there'll be many more to follow."


Rachel Bergen is a journalist for CBC Manitoba and previously reported for CBC Saskatoon. In 2023, she was part of a team that won a Radio Television Digital News Association award for breaking news coverage of the killings of three Indigenous women, allegedly by a serial killer. Email story ideas to

With files from Laissa Pamou