Sudbury newcomer works to keep connected with family, friends in Ukraine

A newcomer to northeastern Ontario who's originally from Ukraine says it's been difficult watching what's happening in her home country.

Svitlana Lapshykova has been living in northeastern Ontario for about 9 months

Svitlana Lapshykova, now living in Sudbury, Ont., says she tries to connect with her friends and family in Ukraine daily. (Submitted by Svitlana Lapshykova )

A newcomer to northeastern Ontario who's originally from Ukraine says it's been difficult watching what's happening in her home country.

Svitlana Lapshykova shared her feelings as Ukraine is under invasion by Russian troops led by President Vladmir Putin. 

Russia announced a handful of humanitarian co-ordinators to allow citizens to flee Ukraine, starting Monday, although the evacuation routes were mostly leading to Russia and its ally Belarus, drawing criticism from Ukraine.

Russian forces have continued to pummel Ukrainian cities, including Mykolaiv, south of the capital of Kyiv, indicating there would be no wider cessation of hostilities. 

Lapshykova, who arrived in Canada about nine months ago, and her daughter now live in Greater Sudbury, where she works for an international recruitment firm.

Lapshykova said her parents, sister, brother and friends are still in Ukraine.

"It's hard to describe with words how I'm feeling."

She said now, her days start around 3 or 4 a.m., trying to check in on her friends and family in Ukraine.

"I open my eyes, I take my phone and sometimes I'm just scared to text because there is always a fear of not hearing back," Lapshykova said.

"My family is more or less safe. They are far from big cities but at the same time, I have a lot of friends in town."

Lapshykova said that town is now destroyed. She hasn't been able to get hold of another friend as they are in an area without electricity.

She said there are times when she feels helpless.

"Sometimes, even guilty, not being there with them in this hard moment," Lapshykova said.

"I try to connect with all of them, every day.

"[If] someone doesn't pick up the phone, you know, I just keep calling until they do."

She said she has no doubt Ukraine will not lose its freedom during this invasion.

Working to help

"I know a lot of people who are in Canada or in some European country right now, and everything is fine," she said. "They have a great job, but they are just ready to leave everything aside, and they travel back to Ukraine because their home country is in danger.

"We're always thinking about our home country, even being far from that." 

Lapshykova's employer, The IVEY Group, recruits workers to Canada from around the world, including Ukraine.

The company has since been working to support its workers with ties to that country.

"We immediately offered help and started to work around the clock on immigration applications for families of our workers, colleagues and friends to come to Canada as soon as possible," the company posted on Facebook.

"Once their visas and work permits are approved, we will relocate them to Canada."

The company has set up a GoFundMe page to assist with the costs.

With files from Angela Gemmill