With the war raging in Ukraine, Oksana Konoplia was faced with a heartbreaking decision. She left her husband and separated her daughter from her father Max to find safety in Canada,
“It was a difficult decision because I never dreamed of leaving my country,” Oksana said. “My husband just told me: ‘You have to worry about the child.
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In June, Oksana and nine-year-old Dasha arrived in Calgary. They have been staying with a host family ever since.
“I love being here now. I feel safety,” Oksana said. “It was a difficult six months without my husband and without parents, with little English. It was difficult, but this wonderful family gave me so much opportunity to live in a normal space.”
Oksana now has a job as a hairstylist and Dasha is enrolled in a southwest Calgary school. Oksana said her English has improved a lot since she arrived. Both she and her daughter are comfortable in English conversations and have settled into their new life in Calgary. But it wasn’t until December 6 that the family felt like they truly belonged.
That’s when an early Christmas present arrived at the Calgary airport – Oksana’s husband Max who finally got a Canadian visa.
However, the joy of the reunion was cut short by devastation back home in their city of Kryvyi Rih.
On Saturday, emergency crews pulled the body of a toddler from an apartment building hit by Russian missiles. Officials said four people were killed in the strike and another 13 were injured.
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Oksana’s parents’ home was not damaged, but communication was limited. She said she felt helpless because her parents did not want to leave the only home they had ever known.
“I think it’s very scary for them because they don’t speak English and they’ve only lived in one house their whole lives,” Oksana said. “I can’t do anything, it’s their decision.”
Russia has pounded the power grid in Ukraine with missiles and drones as part of efforts to leave Ukrainian civilians and soldiers in the dark and cold this winter. And now that he is in Canada, Max is worried about his sister who lives in Dnipro.
“They don’t have electricity or water and heat in the house. They only have kitchen gas,” Max said.
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Max and Oksana said they are grateful for the support their host family in Calgary offers, but Wayne Leong says he is grateful to be able to help.
“It warms my heart to know that we can help some people,” Leong said. “We are so lucky in the world we live in here. We take freedom for granted in Canada and all that, so to have an opportunity to support someone, it’s heartwarming.”
Despite the constant worry about the dangers their family faces at home, and their own uncertain future here, the Konoplia family knows the value of being safe and together.
“Finally, I’m calm inside,” Oksana said. “Because of our different time zones, I couldn’t sleep normally. I always take my phone and many times read some texts with Max.
“Right now I’m just calm and happy. I can sleep normally.”
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