Refugees from Ukraine seeking shelter in Calgary were welcomed to the city at an event in Bowness Park on Sunday afternoon.
It was a day to share music and food and welcome those who have endured so much heartache and left so much behind.
Mila Sheveleva arrived in Calgary in March from Kharkiv with just a small bag and her dog.
Through an interpreter, she said she is very thankful for being welcomed to Canada and for all of the programs available for Ukrainians like herself.
“It was fast and easy to obtain all the documents,” Sheveleva said.
While Sheveleva is grateful to be in Canada, she added that she worries about her daughter, who has chosen to stay behind in the city near the Russian border.
“It’s stressful because my older daughter is still in Kharkiv. She is still staying there with her husband,” she said. “They keep shelling every day, rockets or bombs and explosions.”
Sheveleva’s son-in-law Denys Ruban who was also at Sunday’s event, said he moved to Calgary 10 years ago from Ukraine. Much like Sheveleva, he said his parents have also escaped the city of Kharkiv and are staying temporarily in Rome with his sister, not sure when they’ll be able to go back home.
“They don’t know what to do right now. My city is almost destroyed,” Ruban said.
Tanya Babitch was also at the picnic with her daughter and granddaughter. They fled Kharkiv but her husband remains back in Ukraine.
“It was hard to make that decision,” Babitch said through an interpreter.
Babitch is now staying in Calgary with people she’s never met. She said she’s overwhelmed with the support they’ve received here so far, but added it’s hard not speaking English and knowing her husband is surrounded by waves of Russian bombardment.
“There was shelling again today,” Babitch said. “He could hear it really well from home.”
Like others escaping the violence, Babitch is grateful to be safe in Calgary but has no idea what life will be like when she returns home.
“I can’t believe that this is actually happening. It’s all like a bad dream,” she said.
“I want to wake up and that it never happened.”
Immigrant Services Calgary, the Centre for Newcomers and Calgary Catholic Immigration Society hosted information booths Sunday at the Bowness Park event.
The Consul General of Ukraine was also scheduled to speak at the event about consular services available for Ukrainian nationals.