An Edmonton woman who helps Ukrainians navigate Canada’s immigration process hopes she will one day meet the people she has volunteered to help.
Nataliya Kuts moved to Canada from Ukraine 13 years ago. She earned a degree in immigration consulting, but teaches English as a second language.
When war broke out in her home country in February, Kuts took to social media to offer free assistance to anyone in need.
“When I heard this news, I don’t know – I did it automatically,” she said.
Since then, she has spent hundreds of hours using her knowledge and language skills to help Ukrainians negotiate red tape and other hurdles when traveling to Canada.
Although none of the people she helped have yet landed, she said she knows about 20 Ukrainians who are progressing through the process.
Katernya Andriishyna and her daughter are among them. They now reside in Poland, having moved from a town in the eastern region of Sumy, along the Russian border.
Andriishyna found Kuts listed on a Facebook page set up to help Ukrainians.
“I just typed it in and the next day amazingly I got a response and a phone call from Nataliya,” she said in an email.
Kuts gave Andriishyna information about help and support available from the Canadian government. She helped submit the necessary forms for a visa.
Andriishyna and her daughter are now awaiting next steps after submitting biometric information a few weeks ago.
“I hope one day to come to Canada and meet her in person to tell her how grateful we are,” Andriishyna said.
“In the darkest times of our lives, she provided us with the help and support we needed, just asking how we were doing and how she could help us.”
Kuts is convinced that she will one day be able to meet the people she has helped.
“It will happen,” she said.
Kuts also volunteers at an airport welcome stand hosted by the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada and at the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services welcome area at the Kingsway Mall.
She is inspired by the leadership and organization she saw in Edmonton.
“His [an] amazing thing, what we are doing here.”
Across the country
Kuts is not alone. Many Canadians across the country are stepping up to help Ukrainians in any way they can.
Zack Nethery and Mary Mokrushyna formed Ukrainian Diaspora Support Canada (UADSC) after working to move Mokrushyna’s family from Ukraine to Canada.
The couple operate the nonprofit from their home in Carleton Place, Ontario, outside of working hours.
Nethery said local efforts can be “a kind of Wild West” when it comes to matching immigrant families with Canadian families to stay with after they arrive.
“We’ve heard stories where it hasn’t worked very well, because there’s not really a vetting process, there’s [aren’t] really check it out [aren’t] a lot of stuff like that.”
The UADSC works to create networks across Canada to help better settle Ukrainian immigrants.
He gathered volunteers to help Ukrainians through the immigration process, matching families and buying plane tickets.
Nethery said when the need arises, finding someone to volunteer is almost instantaneous.
“We make a post and in 10 minutes we have to tell people that we don’t need anyone anymore.”