Emotions ran high at the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, where a second charter flight carrying people like Olena Biruk touched down Sunday morning.
The 20-year-old was one of 306 Ukrainians that flew into Montreal from Poland just before 11 a.m. ET Sunday after being approved for emergency travel to Canada.
“Yesterday, I don’t sleep. I’m shocked,” Biruk said of touching down on Canadian soil.
The young woman fled her home in the war-ravaged Ukrainian capital of Kyiv in March, when bombs began dropping near her house. She lived in Poland before arriving in Montreal, and she will soon begin a new chapter in Toronto.
She said she’s determined to find work there while helping her country and her family back home.
“It’s my first trip alone and so I’m nervous, I’m really nervous,” she said. “But now I feel like I can start [a] new life.”
Les personnes rassemblées à l’aéroport de Mtl applaudissent les nouveaux arrivants. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/rcmtl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#rcmtl</a> <a href=”https://t.co/H9zFv71KVj”>pic.twitter.com/H9zFv71KVj</a>
Biruk’s flight was the second federally chartered plane to arrive in the country over the past seven days after a first flight arrived on Monday in Winnipeg.
A third flight, bound for Halifax, is scheduled to land on June 2.
Newcomers were met with open arms, as dozens of Montrealers held signs and flags and clutched balloons, stuffed animals and flowers to give to the families.
While some people at the airport were sponsor families there to greet those they’d be hosting, others like Michel and Élyse St-Hilaire simply turned out to show their support.
“To applaud them, to support them, because I find it appalling what’s happening and it touches us. I think it touches everyone,” said Michel.
The city of Montreal, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Quebec Immigration Ministry and the Union des Municipalités du Québec have partnered to support the Ukrainian settling in the city.
Michael Shwec, president of the Quebec chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said he was “very pleased” with the warm welcome new arrivals received Sunday morning. He thanked the federal and provincial governments, as well as the City of Montreal.
He also praised the support that Quebecers have given to the Ukrainian community, as displayed by the many donations made to associations working to welcome refugees in the province.
“The Quebec population has been extremely generous,” he said.
Hope and sadness
Dignitaries such as Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Jean Boulet, the provincial minister responsible for immigration, labour and francization, were at the airport Sunday morning to welcome the newcomers.
“It was very moving because what we are seeing is the impact of the brutality of Vladimir Putin’s war,” said Joly in an interview with Radio-Canada.
“Every person arriving has experienced a trauma, but there’s also a great feeling of relief. This brings much hope, but also a lot of sadness.”
Joly said Canada can do better with its aid, but is not yet moving forward with another charter flight.
For his part, Boulet said Quebec will “spare no effort” for the integration of Ukrainian refugees.
“I met all the families … it was a very touching experience,” he said.
Boulet said he wants to welcome them “with humanity and dignity,” adding 95 community organizations are spread across the province to help them “no matter what their needs are.”
Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has said the three flights will bring approximately 900 Ukrainians approved for emergency travel into Canada.
The federal government has already welcomed thousands of Ukrainians since Russian forces first attacked in late February.
According to federal government data, Canada has received just over 259,000 requests for temporary residency as of May 25, with 120,668 of those applications approved.