More than 3 million people have been forced to leave Ukraine to safety since Russian troops invaded a month ago, and some have begun arriving in Montreal.
They include Anastasia Zavgorodnia’s mother Nina Zavgorodnia who, exactly a month ago, fled her homes in the city of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, as bombs began falling on Feb. 24.
“She (and my mother-in-law) were hiding for the first eight days and after that they were able to leave Kharviv,” she told Global News while waiting for their arrival at Trudeau airport in Dorval.
She said the two women then drove for another eight days to get to the Polish border and it took another two weeks for them to arrive here at Trudeau airport Thursday afternoon, from Germany.
“I’m glad to see my daughter and I’m glad to see my family, my grandsons, granddaughter,” she said smiling.
Nina Zavgorodnia said of the month-long trip, the 16 days of hiding and driving as bombs fell were the hardest as she wasn’t even sure she’d survive.
“Maybe I wouldn’t see my family,” Nina pointed out.
So far, more than 3.5 million people have fled the war in Ukraine and the Zavgorodnia family are among the first to arrive in the city.
They came on visitors’ visas but Canada has a special program in place to allow an unlimited number of approved Ukrainians to stay in Canada for three years.
Quebec government officials said they, too, are getting ready to receive them.
“We have 95 community organizations scattered all across Quebec to take care of them, to welcome them and to make sure that they have access to our health insurance system,” a statement to Global reads.
The statement added that there are measures in place to ensure they get whatever other services they need, including employment.
There’s even a kiosk set up at Trudeau airport to welcome them.
Zavgorodnia, who had put out a call on social media offering to purchase affordable items to help support her mother and mother-in-law, said she was shocked at the outpouring of public support, and said that she’s grateful.
Thursday evening, though, one thing is a priority for her visitors.
“Sleep,” she laughed. “I think everyone needs sleep right now.”
Her mom wants to return to Ukraine eventually but for now, with everything that’s happening, Zavgorodnia said nothing is sure anymore.