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Ukrainian refugees continue settling in Okanagan

Olena Riadchenko and Olga Strekozova are two Ukrainians living in Kelowna.

Two women settling into their new lives in Kelowna are among roughly 40 families who have made the difficult decision to leave their home in Ukraine and move to the Okanagan.

Olga Strekozova and Olena Riadchenko have spent little more than a week in the city and already the two have found jobs. Both left their friends, families and significant others in Ukraine.

Riadchenko was living in Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv until Russia invaded the country, causing the war in February. She initially didn’t want to leave as her heart is with her country but when tanks started rolling through the streets and she couldn’t tell whether they were Ukrainian or Russian.

“I got scared when I saw tanks in the cities on roads,” she said. “I would wake up to flashes in my windows.”

READ MORE: Escaping from ‘hell to heaven,’ Ukrainian refugee recounts survival and arrival to Kelowna

Initially, she fled to a friend’s in Qatar and had no plans to end up in Canada, as she wanted to go home but her friend told her everything has changed and entry into Canada for Ukrainians was easy.

Strekozova wanted to come to Canada with her husband and said Canadians always say “sorry” here. When the war began, her husband encouraged her to come here. She was a fitness instructor in Ukraine and already has a job lined up making military supplies. She phones him every day.

“It’s so scary every day, if my family wants to go to other villages… Russian soldiers can stop them and ask for documents,” she said, adding her town near Odessa is currently occupied by Russian troops.

Both attended Kelowna Stands with Ukraine’s Concert for Ukraine fundraiser Saturday, May 21, to raise money to help Ukrainian refugees adjust to life in the Okanagan as well as provide military and medical equipment directly to the Ukrainian soldiers.

Items were sold at the Kelowna Stands with Ukraine fundraiser at Waterfront Park, May 21, 2022.
Items were sold at the Kelowna Stands with Ukraine fundraiser at Waterfront Park, May 21, 2022.

The group has also expanded across the Okanagan to help place refugees as Kelowna’s market is expensive, said organizer Denys Storozhuk. Roughly 40 families have arrived in the Okanagan so far and more are expected.

To find out more about the group, visit its Facebook page.


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