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North Bay embraces Ukrainian student refugee

'My host family tries to create all the necessary conditions for a comfortable life for me'
Yukhym Baranovskyi, a refugee from Ukraine looks over at the shores of Lake Nipissing. Photo submitted.

Yukhym Baranovskyi enjoys the community of North Bay. 

"North Bay is a cozy city with very beautiful nature," the 22-year-old said.  

"North Bay reminds me of my hometown with its architecture."

You see, home for Yukhym is the region of Kherson within Ukraine.

"I won't forget the day the war started," he said about the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. 

"That morning I woke up from shell explosions and fighter jets flying over the house. Looking out the window, I saw a scarlet sky. Not far from my house was a military base, which, like many others, was blown up that morning. 

"Due to the frequent bombardments of the city, many residential and non-residential buildings were damaged, including the house of my family, who subsequently had to leave the city. Now this city is more like a ghost town, as most of the inhabitants left the city due to frequent bombings. 

Because of the growing danger, he decided to leave Ukraine.

"I left Ukraine without a plan and with $200 in my pocket, hoping to find a safe place. I knew that there are many Ukrainians in Germany and that the state helps with housing, so I decided to go to Germany before I received permission to enter Canada."

After fleeing Ukraine, he managed to find some work in Germany while obtaining a special VISA that allows him to stay in Canada until 2025. 

Through a charitable organization called Ukrainian Diaspora Support Canada (UASDC), he was able to make his way to Canada and North Bay in late August of 2022.

The third-year university student wanted to leave his war-torn country, however. his family did not. 

"I tried to bring some of my family with me but to no avail," he said.  

"My family has lived all its life in Ukraine and does not want to leave the country."

He calls them regularly but the worry is always there. 

"Every morning I watch the news and pray that everything will be fine with my family this time too. I help my family and do not give up trying to get my family out of Ukraine to a safe place," he said. 

Now, Yukhym is living with a host family in North Bay with hopes of going to school next semester at Humber College located in Etobicoke. 

He's enjoyed his time in North Bay. He has even gotten into martial arts training.

"I go to jiu-jitsu training where I have made new friends," he said.  

"Our trainer takes us to Sudbury every week to train with one of the best trainers in Canada. He refuses to take money even for gasoline. I am amazed at the friendliness and helpfulness in this city."

Yukhym cannot thank his local host family enough for what they have done for him. 

"My host family tries to create all the necessary conditions for a comfortable life for me," he said.  

"I have received great support from them and continue to receive support. They not only helped me solve all the issues related to life in Canada, but also accepted me into their family. We often spend time together: we play many games, watch programs or discuss the latest news."

Jodie, his host mother in North Bay, realizes how much of a struggle this has been for their refugee billet. 

"His story, like so many others, is one of heartbreak," she told BayToday.

"Our local community, friends and neighbours have embraced him and he is so thankful for all of the kindness he is experiencing."

Jodie has set up a GoFundme to help pay for his expenses at school at Humber College where he plans to take English for academic purposes so he can complete his business degree.  

Donations can also be made at Calvin Presbyterian Church by dropping off a cheque or through an e-transfer [email protected] 

He hopes to continue to stay in touch with his new North Bay family when the day comes that he can go home to Ukraine once again. 

Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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