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That bond prompted Chechui to offer to her childhood friend in late February: “Get your family across the border. If you would like them to come to Canada, I will help,” she says.

Roman, a dentist, remained in Ukraine to help defend his country. “I was trying to convince him to leave the country. He’s convinced his duty was to stay and defend his country,” Chechui says.

The last time Roman saw his wife and son was when they made a 16-hour drive to the border of Ukraine and Moldova, she says. “It was a very dangerous situation. They didn’t know if they were going to encounter Russians,” says Chechui. “Roman said he was loading the car with weapons in case they met Russians along the way.”

After Nataliia and Tymur said goodbye to Roman, they made their way to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, where they were processed at the Canadian Embassy. They spent nights in Romania, moving from one Airbnb property to another, before they left for Montreal from Turkey.

Nataliia has a three-year work permit and is keen to work as soon as possible. Educated as a physician in Ukraine and formerly a cosmetologist in Kyiv, Nataliia hopes to become a nurse in Canada, says Chechui. Next month, Nataliia will have some part-time work and will also begin English lessons.

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Chechui says she and her guests are riding “a roller-coaster of emotions on a daily basis.”

Nataliia is worried sick about Roman, who can only be in contact with his wife when he is not on military missions, Chechui says.

Of course, the devastating news and images from the war are heartbreaking, she adds. “The crimes against humanity that are being committed are unfathomable,” says Chechui.

“We have family and friends in Ukraine. It is hard to think, breathe or function without bursting into tears.”

At the same time, Nataliia and Tymur are “very grateful for everything that they get,” Chechui says.

Nataliia speaks for a moment in Ukrainian, and Chechui translates.

“She said to have a chance to work in this type of country, in a free country, in a country where they’re safe, is a huge thing,” Chechui says.

Chechui, who owns and operates Zakuska Market and Deli with her husband, Robert Wnek, can relate to her guests because she came to Canada as a refugee from Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union.

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Karpiak says she herself is waiting to host a displaced Ukrainian woman. But that person lacks the funds to apply to come to Canada, never mind make the trip, and she may have to return to Ukraine from Slovenia, says Karpiak.

While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month met with displaced Ukrainians in Poland as well as Polish President Andrzej Duda, no arrangement to fly displaced Ukrainians to Canada has been announced, Karpiak says.

Chechui says her grocery store, which was built last summer and opened in November, also has a lot of Russian clients who oppose the war.

“They’re coming in with tears in their eyes. They’ve been very supportive (of Ukraine),” she says.

“They’re just as upset and devastated as we are,” Chechui says. “The last thing we want to do is be divided here in Canada.”

This content was originally published here.