Thunder Bay·Profile

Why this woman in Thunder Bay, Ont., is opening her home to Ukrainian refugees

Kim Francis in Thunder Bay, Ont., will be opening up her home to a mother and her two children from Ukraine. as the war with Russia continues.

Family reached out to Kim Francis after her post to a hosting website

Kim Frances and her family are opening up their home to a Ukrainian refugee family. (Supplied by Kim Francis)

When the conflict in Ukraine broke out, many Canadians did their best to support the people by donating to charities, the Ukrainian army, and even bringing awareness through crafts.

Others are doing more.

Like Kim Francis, who is preparing to host a family from Ukraine in her home in Thunder Bay, Ont. 

Francis became interested after learning about a volunteer-run website, that is linking up people fleeing Ukraine with hosts around the world. The Canadian government has authorized Ukrainians to come to Canada through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel program,

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has displaced 4.7 million people in just seven weeks, according to UNHCR

"I went on the website and took a little look around to see where people were offering up their homes. And I even went to Thunder Bay and noticed that there was four pens already dropped down as people offering up a place to stay in our town, Thunder Bay," said Francis

"And so I thought, 'okay, well, let me think about this for a little bit.'"

It didn't take a lot for Francis to think about, after heading into work and seeing her manager, who has family in Ukraine, in tears over the evolving situation as well as a patient who was in a similar state.

"When I went home that day from work, I just said to my husband, 'We're doing this.' And I posted our house just as a way to help," said Francis.

People receive food from a church in the town of Borodyanka, about 40 miles northwest of Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sunday, April 10, 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created an humanitarian crisis. Nearly 5 million people have been displaced in seven weeks. (Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press)

After posting, Francis eventually received a message from a woman while she was out to dinner with friends, explaining the story of how she, her son and daughter had fled the Ukraine on February 28 after being in a suburb in Kyiv.

Francis said the woman had told her they left that very day after a fighter jet plane had been fired down out of the sky and had landed on their neighbour's roof. 

The family made their way to Ireland and were put up by another family there and were hoping to settle, but had difficulty finding accommodations there. After looking for other places, Frances said she has a very close childhood friend that lives in Minnesota.

"So we are actually the closest Canadian city to her friend. And so that's why she reached out specifically to us here in Thunder Bay," said Frances.

She said the woman is currently in the process of applying for a Canadian visa and getting organized to come to Canada, but Francis isn't sure how long the wait will be or when they'll be coming here.

  • WATCH | How this family from Ukraine is confronting their new reality in Canada 

Ukrainian refugee family confronts new reality in Canada

1 year ago
Duration 3:40
A Ukrainian family who fled the war is struggling to find help in Canada, while coping with the guilt of leaving their home country and the uncertainty for what’s next.

But even though Francis doesn't know when they will arrive, she has plans for their accommodations when they do, including clearing out the basement for them so they'll be able to have their own private space.

"We offered up our house for six months. I'm not sure how long she'll take up on it, but I've just told her that she can just stay as long as she needs to."

Francis understands it's a huge commitment to host this family, but ultimately she is very excited to welcome them to Thunder Bay and give them a "safe haven."

"I just want to do whatever I can and, in some way, have some even moment of good come out of this for her. If she can find a place where she feels safe."