One year later: Aid efforts for Ukraine across Saskatchewan

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One year later: Aid efforts for Ukraine across Saskatchewan
As Saskatchewan looks back on one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the province is proud of the support and aid they have offered the country during devastating times – Feb 24, 2023

As Saskatchewan looks back on one year since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the province is proud of the support and aid they have offered the country during devastating times.

Over 1,500 Ukrainian refugees have come to Baba’s Closet over the past year, a Saskatoon shop for those arriving in the city with nothing.

“I had a calling two days after the war started,” said owner Nettie Cherniatenski. “Day by day I just kept following my instincts and just kept going to it and here I am, catering to the Ukrainians coming here and making them feel comfortable here in Saskatoon.”

Cherniatenski said she was watching the news when Russia invaded Ukraine and thought of her distant relatives overseas.

“On the third day, I was standing around at noon watching it on TV and I just felt something over my right shoulder saying, ‘Nettie, this is what you are going to do,’ and it just seemed like everything fell into place.”

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Cherniatenski started collecting donations in her garage but quickly moved to a 500-square-foot office space. Her recent success has had her expand to a 3,000-square-foot, fully-operational shop.

Baba’s Closet aims at stocking up new Saskatoon residents with houseware, clothing and toiletries and runs with the help of 32 volunteers.

“It’s so, so rewarding. It’s changed a lot of areas in my life and opened my eyes. What a giving province we are,” Cherniatenski said.

People in Regina got in on the action too, sending care packages to the country in March shortly after the war began.

Loreli Palandri, owner of From Seed to Sprout, began putting together humanitarian packages for those who had been affected by the war.

The company mainly catered to mothers and babies but was willing to help anyone in need.

Seeing the devastation on social media and watching nurses care for babies in makeshift hospital units spurred Paladri into action.

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“When we heard about those things happening, it really got at our ‘nurse heart’ and we wanted to do something — anything,” Palandri said.

Canadian shipping company Meest offered to ship all packages donated to Ukraine from its Toronto headquarters to Poland for free.

The shipments included basic human needs: things like socks, toothpaste, clothes, and even some non-perishable food items.

Hundreds of people brought items to the donation centre to be shipped overseas and thousands of kilograms of aid materials were sent.

Since the Russian invasion, Saskatchewan has opened its doors to over 3,000 Ukrainian refugees through humanitarian flights.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the province, in partnership with Open Arms and Solitaire, to bring five humanitarian flights to Saskatchewan by the end of March 2023.

Four of the five promised flights have been completed and Saskatchewan is doing what it can to welcome the newcomers to the province.

Upon arrival, refugees were supported with health care, banking, housing, job support and more.

In an effort to help displaced Ukrainians settle in the province, the provincial government held a one-day career fair at Viterra International Trade Centre in Regina in November.

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Around 90 employers, agencies and chambers of commerce attended the fair, including representatives from the agriculture, construction, health, hospitality, industrial manufacturing, mining, retail, tech and transportation industries.

Employers seeking to offer jobs can also apply for provincial training funding to support Ukrainian refugees.

“Finding employment is a significant and meaningful step in the settlement process for newcomers,” Immigration and Career Training Minister Jeremy Harrison said.

— with files from Global News’ Brady Ratzlaff, Montana Getty, Aishwarya Dudha, Andrew Benson, Troy Charles

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