The Aleksenko family is joined by Ivy Livingstone who has opened her home to them in October as they begin their new life in Canada. From the left, front row: Anna, Illia, Valeriia and Hennadii holding Daniel. Back row: Ivy Livingston.  Courtesy Photo

GREELY – Thanksgiving weekend 2022 will be remembered for a very special reason by two families. For the Aleksenko family from Ukraine they began their new life in Canada on Oct. 8 in their new home with Ivy and Charles Livingstone.

Ivy recounted that while visiting a friend in London Ontario, the news about the war in the Ukraine and the effect it had on the people living there was most upsetting. Knowing there was an empty apartment in their Greely home, she spoke with her husband, and the couple decided to offer it to a family who had been displaced by the war.

When she returned home to Greely a few days later, she contacted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ottawa. They suggested that she try the Catholic Immigration Services. She eventually was able to speak with someone at the CIS, where she and her husband were vetted, and after five months of waiting and anticipating, they were eventually connected with the Aleksenko family in Poland. Ivy explained, that in early September, the two families got to know each other through email correspondence, noting once the process began things moved rather quickly.

Hennadii and Anna have three children, a 10-month-old Daniel, a 16-year-old daughter Valeriia, and 13-year-old son Illia, who attend two separate high schools. The family also has a two-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Emelia, who accompanied the family to Poland and was able to emigrate to Canada with them.

Valeriia, who speaks several languages and provided translation during the interview, explained that her family had lived in a Ukrainian city close to the Russian border. There her father had owned a body shop business in his community, with several employees. Before the war with Russia began, the situation became so tense that the decision was made by the family to relocate to Poland where they were able to make a temporary home with extended family members, and where baby Daniel was born a mere week before Russia invaded the Ukraine.

As refugees streamed into Poland, Valeriia and her family began researching a more permanent home for the family. They learned that Canada was accepting Ukrainian refugees, the weather was similar to that of the Ukraine, and it was a safe place to live. Anna explained the family was interested in coming to Canada to live because she had learned this was a country where people of different nationalities and cultures were welcomed and valued.

Once the family made the decision to come to Canada, Valeriia explained the process began to move along. Her father, who had owned a body shop business in their community, researched and was able to secure a job in his field in Ottawa. With that hurdle passed, and their documents in order, they were granted permission to emigrate. The family landed in Canada on Oct. 8, five months after making the decision to move to this country.

When asked about the challenges they faced, Anna mentioned there were some challenges with the changes, noting the flight presented several of them. “It was all a bit terrifying!” she said. The family had spent almost a full 24 hours travelling from Poland to Canada, arriving at 4:20 p.m. at the Ottawa International Airport where they were greeted by the Livingstone’s and their friend Rosemarie Pallasch, who was providing additional transportation. Both Anna and Valeriia did say, that after arriving in Canada, it had become much easier because Ivy is so helpful.

“Ivy has done a remarkable job,” commented Greely resident Doug Thompson, continuing to note how she has facilitated the family’s transition and helped them navigate through the various government departments to receive the documentation they need. He mentioned Ivy is a perfect example of how to get done what needs to be done to assist people coming to Canada.

Valeriia’s face lit up when she was asked about her favourite fast-food restaurants, before replying “McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken.” She continued, “the family is enjoying living in Greely as there is a big back yard and the neighbours are quite friendly.”

During the 2022 holiday season, Ivy and Anna worked together to create several dozen Christmas treats. Ivy mentioned that a tree trimming party was held at their home in December, with everyone enjoying the event and the holiday treats. Valeriia mentioned the family looked forward to experiencing a Canadian Christmas this year and celebrating on Dec. 25 but mentioned the Ukrainian traditional Christmas date of Jan. 6 would likely be celebrated.

Welcome to your new home in Canada, Hennadii, Anna, Valeriia, Illia, Daniel and your canine companion Emelia and Happy New Year!