It has only been a few days since the Shaladonov family arrived in Saint John.
The family of three — Myroslav, Oleksandra and Kira — was forced to flee war-torn Ukraine following the start of the unprovoked Russian invasion.
Anette Malinowski, who, along with her husband, is hosting the family, brought the region’s newest residents to St. Martins, N.B., to show them the beauty the province has to offer.
“We have a walk there. There are beautiful caves. We go on a beach,” Myroslav Shaladonov remarked.
Shaladanov said the warm reception by the people of Saint John came as a shock.
Unfortunately, immigrants haven’t always felt the hospitality when moving to the Port City.
Malinowski emigrated from Germany nearly two decades ago, and after living in Alberta for a few years, she decided to move to the east coast for its lower cost of living.
But, looking back on her move to Saint John, Malinowski describes it as lonely.
“Nobody explained to us about building a credit score up, buying a house, with a driver’s licence, with the taxes, with everything, so we were alone,” said Malinowski.
Now a seasoned Saint Johner, Malinowski can admit it’s a great city — as long as you know people.
Ensuring newcomers don’t have the same experience will be a top priority for the City of Saint John.
A new proposed immigration strategy aims to attract nearly 12,500 immigrants to the city by 2030, and retain at least 90 per cent.
“So we want to be a community of choice for immigration, and that’s going to take some work with the federal government as well, to say we are ready for immigrants,” Saint John Mayor Donna Reardon said.
Through conversations with newcomers, Reardon has become more aware of the barriers that keep immigrants from staying long-term.
“One is transit. A lot of them come from a country where they would have had public transit. They may not have owned a vehicle, don’t want a vehicle, may not be able to afford the expense of a vehicle,” said Reardon.
Another barrier is a place of worship, said Reardon, who noted with empty churches and downsized congregations, it may be worth asking groups to share spaces.
While the city works to establish itself as the new hub for immigration, the Shaladonov family will make themselves comfortable in their new home.
“It’s a nice city, and I hope I will know more about it in the future,” said Shaladonov.