Skip to content

A family from Ukraine finds peace in Thunder Bay

A mom, dad and three-year-old child are adjusting to their new home.

THUNDER BAY — Zamir and Yuliia Mikava likely never imagined they would one day be making perogies thousands of kilometres away in Canada.

But that all changed after Russia's military invaded Ukraine in late February.

Today the Mikavas and their three-year-old daughter are comfortably settled in at a relative's home on Mapleward Road, far from air raid sirens, bombs and missiles.

Making perogies is one way the family stays connected to Ukrainian culture, even as they work hard to adjust to the nuances of life in a place that's very different from what they're used to.

They arrived in Thunder Bay about a month ago at the invitation of Walter and Marika Warywoda.

Marika is Yuliia's second cousin.

Almost as soon as the Russians attacked, the Mikava family fled the city of Lviv for Poland, a tense journey that took several days to complete.

They were in Poland for about four weeks before flying to Canada.

"They were lucky enough to get, fairly quickly, the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel" from the federal government, Walter Warywoda said.  "We made contact with them during the course of that month or so. They were welcomed into our home and they were happy to finally get here."

So far, their biggest challenge is learning the English language.

Yuliia has basic knowledge but has enrolled in an ESL course to improve her skills.

Zamir, who's originally from the country of Georgia, is signed up for introductory English.

He was anxious to get a job as soon as possible, and was happy to find work as a construction labourer.

Speaking Monday through an interpreter, Yuliia said staying in Canada permanently would be a wonderful outcome, and that she and her husband will try their best to achieve that.

For now, they're grateful for the peace and natural beauty the Thunder Bay area offers, and for not having to worry about their little girl's safety.

Still, their thoughts constantly turn to home, where Yuliia's aging parents still live.

She's been able to stay in touch with them through FaceTime.  

So far, her parents are okay, but are still hearing air raid sirens.

Just two days ago a bomb destroyed a home not far from where they live in Lviv.

The family hopes for a swift end to the war and that Ukraine will even regain its lost territories in the east and south, "because your homeland is always your homeland," Yuliia said.

"It's great to have them here and to accommodate their immediate needs. But the drama is ongoing. It's a terrible refugee situation, with millions of people displaced outside Ukraine and internally," said Warywoda.

He's the branch president of the League of Ukrainian Canadians.

Warywoda said it will be a huge challenge for the world to help all the refugees struggling to set up a new life.

"If people are interested in helping other Ukrainian refugee families, I would encourage them to try to make connections via social media. There's a huge group called Canada Hosts Ukrainians on Facebook where people are posting their profiles. If anyone could assist somebody, it's going to make the burden a lot less."


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks