A Winnipeg musician has managed to help eight family members — from small children to seniors — across the border from Ukraine into Poland, but she says now the real challenge begins.
Tetyana Haraschuk, an accomplished jazz drummer and composer, left Winnipeg last fall to pursue a master’s degree in Valencia, Spain. It was there she heard her birth country of Ukraine had been invaded a month ago, and with the help of a network of friends, she travelled to Poland, where her family is safe — for now — in temporary lodgings.
Haraschuk said the refugees’ journey to relative safety — which, for many of her family members, meant an eight-hour walk in winter weather to reach the border — is only partially complete, as they don’t know what the future holds beyond a short time in a Polish house, with access to some canned food from a nearby centre.
“They came here with nothing,” she said. “This house is a blessing. They have this house for a little bit, but then that’s it. Once the house runs out… what do they do? There’s nothing for them.
“And the problem is, language is a huge barrier, even in Poland. For them, even… to be able to apply for a job, they need to know the language. And that’s a huge barrier.”
Haraschuk, who has been providing regular updates on her family and on the situation in Ukraine more generally via an online blog, is also spearheading a GoFundMe fundraiser to keep her loved ones afloat while they try to determine their next steps — whether that means starting a new life in Poland, attempting to come to Canada, or something else.
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“While they’re trying to rebuild their lives, maybe making decisions of where they want to go… they still need to survive,” she said.
“And so that money is going for immediate expenses, as well as planning a little bit into the future and for whoever needs whoever needs traveling expenses covered.
“I don’t know how long they can stay here, realistically. So they might have to keep moving and they need to fill their car with gas. They have one car that doesn’t fit everyone, so regardless, they need to buy their bus tickets, plane tickets, fill the car…”
Haraschuk said a big misconception about the situation on the ground in Ukraine is that once the millions of families fleeing the country step across a border, their difficulties are over — but it’s not so simple.
“I think we also need to realize that once you get out of Ukraine during this war, your heart is (still) in Ukraine with the rest of your family, with your friends. Of course, with your city,” Haraschuk said.
“Just because you got out, that makes you safe… but your mind, it’s confused. Why am I safe? Everybody else is still not safe. How do I feel? What do I do? How do I keep going? It’s very, very confusing.
“I mean, the answer to this is stop the war, right? It’s not human. You have to prevent something. You can’t just keep Band-Aiding the problem. You have to stop the problem.”