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How a local charity has helped thousands of Ukrainians


An Alberta charity has helped thousands of people since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

A year ago, the Alberta Provincial Council of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) had one full-time employee and volunteers who came in for special occasions.

The organization provides information and advocacy for Ukrainian Canadians.

On Feb. 24 everything changed.

Russia invaded Ukraine, and Alberta’s Ukrainian population turned to the UCC for help.

That’s when Tina Dmytryshyn became a volunteer.

“It was just so overwhelming for everybody at the beginning because nobody knew what was happening,” she told CTV News Edmonton.

“We have such a huge Ukrainian population in Alberta that wanted to know, ‘How do I get my family here?’”

As Ukrainians began to arrive in Canada, the UCC became the first stop for many.

“We can get them in touch or get them the information or get them the forms that they need. Everything from getting a bus pass to getting their healthcare card, that’s what we’re here for. We’re the one place that they can phone and we can connect them with all the other agencies.”

Orysia Boychuk is the president of the Alberta Provincial Council of UCC.

She says the Ukrainians coming to Canada don’t come as refugees.

“The people arriving here are on a travel visa.”

“When they arrive at the airport they’re expected to get to a hotel, their own place, living, get all set up, all on their own. There’s nothing there waiting for them.”

The UCC has set up a furniture warehouse with donated items to help get families started.

Vitalii Hrynevych came to Canada with his wife and sons in June. The warehouse at UCC helped them outfit their new home.

“We were so excited because we don’t have anything, no furniture at all. We sleep one week without nothing, just on the floor. It was interesting times.”

Now he volunteers at the warehouse.

“We got the first necessity from the warehouse. After that we decided to stay and help as much people as we can who came here without nothing.”

Hrynevych says his family learned about the UCC at the airport when they arrived. They were grateful to get help from people who spoke their language.

“I can speak English, but mostly our newcomers, Ukraine people, they doesn’t. Maybe a little bit, but mostly not.”

The UCC has now grown to three full-time employees and hundreds of volunteers.

“We started and we had one phone line, we have now four phone lines. We had two computers in the office, we have now seven computers. We were not designed, set up at all, to manage this and we had to very quickly get going,” Boychuk said.

Thanks to those volunteers, they’ve been able to help thousands of people.

“I would probably say anywhere from 50 to 60 people coming through a week,” Boychuk said.

“Probably we would receive about 50 phone calls a day. The phone was ringing nonstop in the early days.”

The organization still operates out of the same one-room office it did a year ago.

“It’s like a call centre. People are sitting side-by-side and working side-by-side.”

“We’re doing the best we can and as much as we can within the resources we have.”

Boychuk doesn’t know how much longer the UCC will be called on to help Ukrainians fleeing their country, but she says they now have good infrastructure in place for anyone who comes.

“We’ve developed a website for people to access,” she said.

“We’ve managed to get the information out so people don’t necessarily have to specifically phone or come to the office.”

For more information on the Alberta Provincial Council of the UCC and their services, visit their website.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jessica Robb. Top Stories

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