Eastern Ontario town supports Ukrainians fleeing war zone

A daughter’s effort to bring her mother, brother and sister safely to Canada from Ukraine has mobilized other people in Carleton Place, Ont., to do what they can to help.

Carleton Place couple leads effort to help Ukrainians trying to come to Canada

Mary Mokrushyna and her partner Zack Nethery are helping connect families in Carleton Place, Ont., with Ukrainians fleeing the war who want to come to Canada. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

A daughter's effort to bring her mother, brother and sister safely to Canada from Ukraine has mobilized other people in a small town near Ottawa to do what they can to help.

Mary Mokrushyna and her partner Zack Nethery say they're now helping other Ukrainian families connect with people in Carleton Place, Ont., who are willing to open up their homes to those fleeing the war.

"The goal would be to bring as many people as we can, bring them out of the crisis area, and then resettle them here," Nethery said.

Mokrushyna, who moved to Canada from Ukraine in 2018 for school, said she doesn't want people leaving her home country to feel any guilt about asking others for help.

"I think if there is a safe place for you, you should go, and if you want to come to Canada we're going to do our best to try and help you," she said.

The federal government is waiving most typical visa requirements and is prepared to welcome an "unlimited number" of Ukrainians fleeing the war, according to Immigration Minister Sean Fraser.

Outpouring of support

Carebridge Community Support, a social services agency in Carleton Place's Lanark County, is helping Mokrushyna and Nethery collect financial donations to help cover flight costs and other expenses. The pair is also collecting donations of used clothing and household items.

Their home is currently bursting at the seams with items dropped off by people in the community.

Mokrushyna and Nethery's home in Carleton Place is bursting at the seams with donations. They said once the items are sorted, they will be stored at a local business and distributed to Ukrainians on arrival, based on need. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

"It's almost overwhelming. We weren't expecting an eighth of what we got in terms of monetary donations, items, just support in the town itself," Nethery said.

One woman is making and selling Ukrainian face masks and donating the proceeds, Nethery said, and children at the Mississippi Mills Youth Centre are selling handmade hats, scarves and bracelets to raise money.

Lawyers and doctors in town have also offered up their services pro bono for arriving Urkainians, he added.

A mother's journey

It all started with Mokrushyna's mother, Olga Ialovenko — who, like so many Ukrainians, fled the country with only what she could fit in a car.

After a treacherous journey last month, Ialovenko was able to safely cross out of Ukraine at the Hungarian border.

She and her two other children, ages eight and 12, then made their way to Warsaw, where they're living with friends while waiting for visas.

Ialovenko, who has spent about 14 years doing charity work with the Rotary Club, said it's difficult for her to accept help but she's been overwhelmed by the support and messages coming from people in Carleton Place.

"The people, you are incredible, you are absolutely awesome. What you are doing, it means a lot for me and for those who are standing right behind me," she said.

Olga Ialovenko is pictured here on the right with her three children and her parents in their Cherkasy backyard in Ukraine in 2018. Mary Mokrushyna, pictured left, said the photo was taken just before she moved to Canada to go to school. (Submitted by Mary Mokrushyna)

According to the United Nations, more than two million refugees have crossed into neighbouring countries from Ukraine — the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

Mokrushyna and Nethery said they will speak Friday night during a Light for Ukraine event at the Market Square in Carleton Place, which begins at 7 p.m., to honour and show support for Ukrainian people.


  • A previous version of this story misspelled Olga Ialovenko's last name as Lalovenko.
    Mar 09, 2022 1:55 PM ET