‘Now we are safe’: Ukrainian mother and children fleeing war settle in Toronto

Natalia Nuzhyna watches her young son draw with colored chalk on the sidewalk outside a house in west Toronto where they now live.

It’s a world away from the family’s real home in Odessa, Ukraine.

“I miss my life because it was simple. I had a job, I had daycare, I had school. I had everything in my house the way I wanted it,” she said .

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Nuzhyna has been in Canada for three weeks.

“I left Odessa on the third day of the war with my two children aged ten and three. We crossed the border with Moldova. It takes eight hours and then we go to Bucharest, Romania,” she recalls.

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It is a journey that Nuzhyna was forced to take without her husband, who stayed behind to fight.

His 81-year-old father also remained in Odessa.

” I was unable to sleep. I couldn’t eat. My children were very stressed,” she said, recalling the start of the war.

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Nuzhyna is now adjusting to life in Toronto and says she is grateful for the support from her family and community.

“I didn’t expect this support…I’m very grateful,” she said.

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“When it looked like the visa was coming and we had an approximate date of their arrival, we realized, ‘OK, now we have to set up the infrastructure here,'” Jennifer Phelan, Nuzhyna’s cousin, explained.

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“(We) started reaching out to neighbors and family to meet basic needs first, like where they’re going to live, to raise money to keep them going,” she continued. added.

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Phelan connected online with a landlord who offered a basement apartment for free for as long as Nuzhyna needed it.

“Since that post, where I was looking for subsidized housing, so many other people who had no housing to offer said, ‘OK, but we have a lot of clothes for little kids, or toys, or supplies. of art,” she recalls. “A woman who is a retired ESL teacher who lives in Roncesvalles quite near now comes every Monday for private English lessons.”

Nuzhyna left Ukraine with two bags and a suitcase, full of photographs and her tools for making leather goods.

“These memories that I want to keep.. because it’s very special,” she said.

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Nuzhyna’s daughter is enrolled in fourth grade at a Toronto school, while her son begins daycare.

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“Sometimes he asks, ‘So dad is home and we’re here? But where are we? He doesn’t understand,” she said.

Although she does not regret her decision to leave, Nuzhyna says she wonders when or if she will be able to return to Ukraine.

“Now we are safe. We are in a good place,” she said, adding “we have to live day to day.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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