A second plane carrying Ukrainian refugees fleeing war has arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The flight, chartered by the provincial government and carrying 177 people and their pets, landed Tuesday night at the St. John’s International Airport after leaving from Poland earlier in the day.
“We are really thankful to everybody because everybody helped us. We are so happy that Canada is open for us, for Ukrainians,” Iryna Krasilnikova, travelling with her dog Prince, told reporters minutes after stepping off of the plane.
“I feel not good to leave Ukraine because my friends, my family is there. I worry every day. I’m happy now, of course, because I’m safe. But my family and my friends are not safe.”
Krasilnikova, an artist, said she plans to continue creating work while in N.L.
According to the United Nations, as of June 9, more than 7 million people have fled Ukraine — more than half of them to neighbouring Poland.
In early May, 166 Ukrainian’s touched down in St. John’s on the first government-chartered plane. That flight, along with Tuesday’s, was co-ordinated by the Ukrainian Family Support Desk, a program launched by the province in March when the government sent a team of representatives to Warsaw to pitch the idea of moving to N.L. to Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.
In early June, 29 more Ukrainians followed on a federally chartered flight which carried 300 people to Halifax before the group splintered off across Canada.
After being greeted Tuesday night inside the arrivals terminal by government officials, community support groups and translators, most of the newcomers went directly to pre-arranged accommodations, while others met family or friends.
Some are looking for work, but others found jobs before they set foot on Newfoundland soil.
Zenobi Gritsan has a job as a legal assistant.
He said he’s grateful to be in the province, especially since his family and friends have been fighting against the Russian forces since the full-scale invasion in late February.
“My wife’s father and brother are defending Ukraine and serve in Ukraine army. We are with them in our thoughts and we hope we will win this war,” he said.
“God bless Ukraine and Canada. Thank you so much for your help. We are really happy to be here and to be a part of Canada.”
All arriving Ukrainians have been granted the federal Emergency Travel Visa, which allows them to live and work in Canada for up to three years.
The Association for New Canadians executive director Megan Morris has had a busy couple of months.
Morris was at the airport again on Tuesday to welcome the new arrivals.
Those who didn’t have accommodations set up ahead of their arrival in St. John’s were scooped up by the ANC team to stay in temporary lodging until they get on their feet.
Morris and the ANC take the newcomers through orientations, help them get set up with provincial health coverage, with job searches and looking for permanent housing.
“People are really connected on social media so there’s lots of things happening and people are already finding their own housing. It’s quite an amazing experience to it play out,” said Morris.
Morris said she’s hearing positive things from refugees who have been in the province for about a month already, and said people have been connecting with their new neighbours.
But, she said, they still need help from the public, particularly around housing and employment, and Morris is asking anyone with an opening to reach out to the ANC or the province’s support desk.
Provincial Immigration Minister Gerry Byrne was also at the airport Tuesday.
“We’re anticipating some great stuff. This is our second charter. We learn every time we do something like this because there’s no training manual, there’s no guidebook for any of this,” Byrne said.
“I’m very relieved that we have such an amazing team behind us, who really worked out all the details, really anticipated all of the needs of the Ukrainians and made this welcome possible.”
Byrne said the province’s support team in Poland will continue operating.
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