N.L.'s immigration team in Poland says it's attracting interest from Ukrainian refugees

A week after arriving in Poland, a team from Newfoundland and Labrador sent to offer support to Ukrainian refugees says they're garnering interest from people considering coming to the province.

4-person team offering support to people fleeing from Russian invasion

Members of Newfoundland and Labrador's team sent to offer support to Ukrainian refugees arrived in Poland last week. From left: Darek Nakonieczny, Sonia Parker, Allison Day and Iwona Nakonieczny. (Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

A week after arriving in Poland, a team from Newfoundland and Labrador sent to offer support to Ukrainian refugees says they're garnering interest from people considering coming to the province.

Allison Day, an immigration program development officer with the Department of Immigration, Population Growth and Skills, told CBC News "there's definitely interest" in what the province is offering.

"It is still early, so we will see," said Day.

"The focus right now is getting the Canadian visas done, the biometrics completed.… In speaking with people on the ground, we can tell them we have a small population, we can offer many different supports, the size is to our advantage in this case."

According to the United Nations, more than two million people have fled Ukraine for Poland since Russia's invasion last month.

In an effort to draw more newcomers to Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial government sent a small team to Warsaw to offer in-person, expedited support for Ukrainians seeking temporary safety or permanent resettlement.

The Ukrainian Family Support Desk is staffed by four people who arrived overseas a week ago. Among them are Day and Darek Nakonieczny, a senior multimedia analyst with the province's communications branch. 

"We really hit the ground and are going around to different organizations where Ukrainians are seeking temporary shelter. We are speaking with media to get the word out and we're providing any assistance we can to support Ukrainians applying for the Canadian Visa," Day said.

"We have a temporary work site where we can meet clients. We don't have a formal office at this time because we found it was useful for us to be moving around for now."

Ukrainian evacuees board a train to Warsaw at the rail station in Przemysl, near the Polish-Ukrainian border. (Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images)

Nakonieczny, who is originally from Poland and can speak Russian, is helping out with logistics and interpretation. His wife, Iwona, also from Poland, is also on the team. The fourth team member is Sonia Parker, also Polish and an immigration officer for the province. 

Nakonieczny runs the Confederation Building's media centre and government's live streams but his connections in Poland, along with his wife's, are proving useful in the effort to help fleeing Ukrainians, he said.

"Two of us are working on the logistics and reaching out to our Polish contacts," Nakonieczny said. "So, applications, documents, translations and linking folks with our team back home in Newfoundland."

Local help from N.L.

N.L. is the only province to send an immigration team from Canada so far, but the federal government has a Canadian embassy in Warsaw. 

Day said the embassy has been supportive of Newfoundland and Labrador's mission and there has been consistent contact between the two sides. The embassy is helping to point Ukrainians who have expressed an interest in coming to Canada toward the N.L. contingent, she said. 

The team is also delivering handouts to highly populated areas where Ukrainians are sheltering. 

Nakonieczny and Parker speak with Ukrainians in Poland. (Submitted by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador)

Day said the Department of Immigration, Population Growth and Skills is able to match refugees with prospective employers before they ever leave the country. 

She said other employers have been reaching out to offer help and training for those who don't have experience in a particular industry. Memorial University may also play a role in helping to attract more international students. 

Nakonieczny said the situation is heartbreaking, with multiple generations fleeing their homes, mostly women and children as the men remain in Ukraine to defend against the Russian invasion. 

He said his initial impression is that many prefer to remain close to home, but with no end in sight to the conflict they may be considering more long-term solutions. 

"They are in shock, especially the fact that families are separated. So that makes the decision that much harder."

The province has set up an email address,, for anyone who may be able to help support Ukrainian newcomers, and can be used by those looking to assist family displaced by the conflict.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On The Go