Ukrainian refugee hopes to realize lifelong dream as student in Winnipeg

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Winnipeg principals hope for return to normal as school year begins
With students in many of Winnipeg’s school divisions heading back to classes Wednesday, school administrators say they’re ready for what will hopefully be a return to normalcy after two years of pandemic disruptions – Sep 7, 2022

Back-to-school is a time of adjustment for most students, but it has a completely different meaning for those forced to flee war in Ukraine.

Ksenia Odyntsova graduated high school in the spring but now that she lives in Manitoba, she wants to redo her Grade 12.

“I think my English is not so good but I will try and be better and make new friends,” Odyntsova says.

She and her mother Olha came to Canada in July to escape the war. They just moved out of their hotel into an apartment. Now, they’re trying to find a school in Seven Oaks catchment area.

Read more: Ukrainian refugees arrive in Gimli

The division says they’ve been busy with refugee settlements.

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“In the summertime I was just asking one of the staff who was working more or less full-time and she said she was meeting three to five newcomer families from Ukraine a day,” says Janna McKee, program director of Seven Oaks Immigrant Services.

She says meeting with newcomers is an important step in helping refugees feel a sense of community.

“Being able to have friends and networks is not only good for mental health and networking but language development,” McKee says.

Read more: Winnipeg summer camp for Ukrainian kids wraps up

Odyntsova hopes that working on her language will take her a step closer to becoming a psychologist.

She says she knows first-hand the strain that living with a disability can take on one’s mental health and she wants to help others.

“My family and I, we know how difficult it can be to be disabled people and maybe I can help … it’s my dream,” Odyntsova  says.

For now, she’s looking forward to meeting new classmates.

“I think I’ll make friends in school because Canadian people are really friendly.”

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