Montrealers open their homes to Ukrainian families fleeing a war-torn country

Tatiana and Daniel Romano sleep in their basement as they renovate their home to house Ukrainian families fleeing the war.

Over the past month, they’ve been tearing down walls to create spare bedrooms and bathrooms for their guests to be comfortable in. For them, renovating their home in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, a west-island suburb of Montreal, is worth it.

“We want to be able to offer a space to live with dignity,” said Tatiana Romano. “Not just a mattress on the floor.”

The Romanos are already hosting two Ukrainian families and are expecting a third to join them in June.

“I scored,” Tatiana said. “I feel like the lucky one who can take them in. I feel like a mother of 10 children.”

The Romanos are among the Montrealers who are opening their homes to Ukrainians as they find their place in Canada.

This weekend, the city will welcome around 400 Ukrainians, indicates the municipal councilor in charge of the file, Alia Hassan-Cournol. They will arrive by charter plane on May 29.

“There was a huge wave of solidarity from Montrealers who wanted to welcome Ukrainian migrants into their homes,” Hassan-Cournol said.

“A lot of [Ukrainians] already have family in Montreal or around Montreal, so they’re going to be reunited.”

find shelter

Hassan-Cournol says Ukrainians need to know their rights, especially the right to housing, and make sure they are respected.

The City of Montreal, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Quebec Ministry of Immigration and the Union of Quebec Municipalities are joining forces to support Ukrainian migrants settling in the city.

The municipal agency that helps newcomers integrate will help direct newcomers from Ukraine to suitable accommodation by asking potential hosts for detailed information about their accommodation.

“We have to make sure that people who come here alone or with their children in a very traumatic situation [state] arrive here safe and sound,” Hassan-Cournol said.

“The form will ensure that the housing offered by Montrealers is healthy, safe and meets the needs of families. We check criminal records.”

Evgeniia Pimenova, right, and her son, Yaroslav Vakhitov, live with the Romanos as they adjust to life in Canada. (Chloe Ranaldi/CBC)

Evgeniia Pimenova of Odessa, Ukraine, who is staying with the Romanos, says she is grateful for their generosity and to have found safety in Canada.

When war broke out, her son, Yaroslav Vakhitov, 15, was in a Ukrainian hospital for leg surgery. She says she had to get someone to help carry him to safety when she heard bombs.

“I still don’t believe I’m somewhere in a foreign country,” she said. “We couldn’t believe how lucky we were. Everyone helps us.”

On June 2, Vakhitov will undergo an ultrasound to see if he has recovered enough to get up.

“We will now entrust our son to Canadian doctors,” she said.

As Tatiana Romano and her husband prepare to welcome another family this summer, she says she is grateful that the families who share her home have given her the opportunity to do good.

“It makes a difference,” she said. “You give someone a chance to start over, to be successful, and you see them grow.”