Viktor Bondar (second from right) the first Ukrainian to come to Smithers following the outbreak of war in his home country arrives at the Smithers Regional Airport greeted by (from left) Paul Murphy, Luba Kasum and Demid Rokachev. STORY PAGE A2

Viktor Bondar (second from right) the first Ukrainian to come to Smithers following the outbreak of war in his home country arrives at the Smithers Regional Airport greeted by (from left) Paul Murphy, Luba Kasum and Demid Rokachev. STORY PAGE A2

First Ukrainians fleeing conflict arrive in Smithers

More help is needed, particularly housing

By Laurie Cooper/Special to The Interior News

The first Ukrainians fleeing war have arrived in Smithers. A young father arrived on April 13 and hopes to be joined soon by his family. Another family group arrived on Good Friday – a mother, her teenage son and her elderly aunt.

Local volunteers and donors made it possible for the displaced Ukrainians to get to Canada, but in both cases the initial contact was made by a Telkwa man, Paul Murphy. Murphy, 54, reached halfway around the world to help the victims of the devastating war in Ukraine.

Murphy has lived in the Bulkley Valley for nearly 30 years. He and his wife Marlene – whose maternal grandmother was Ukrainian – own Happy Pig Organic Farm in Telkwa. Murphy says after seeing media reports about the conflict in Ukraine, he was inspired to do something.

“We were watching the news and I started thinking about what I could do,” said Murphy. “If I were twenty years younger, I might have gone over to fight, but that’s not possible. Instead, we decided to offer our home.”

The Murphy family has welcomed many volunteers to their farm over the years. They have a cabin on the property and, as recent empty nesters, they have a couple of spare bedrooms. Murphy started searching online to connect with people needing help. He quickly discovered several websites and Facebook groups where he extended his offer of a place to stay.

“I registered on a few different websites for people offering accommodation in Canada and I joined a few Facebook groups,” says Murphy. “Right away, I started getting messages from people asking for help to get to Canada.”

Since then, Murphy has helped several people complete the federal government’s application for a Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET) visa. The visa allows Ukrainians to come to Canada on a visitor visa and stay for up to three years. They can also apply for an open work permit, so they are able to support themselves while they get here.

Murphy is expecting to welcome several individuals and families over the next weeks and months. The first arrival, Viktor Bondar, 34, is from Crimea in eastern Ukraine. Bondar arrived in Smithers last Wednesday and is staying with Murphy. Bondar has a background in construction and farming, so Murphy is confident that he will have no problem finding a job.

“I can tell he is a good worker,” laughs Murphy. “He flew halfway around the world, but on his first morning here he wanted to know when he could get to work.”

The family of three who arrived on Friday are being hosted by a family living just outside of the town of Smithers.

“Our biggest challenge is finding housing for people arriving from Ukraine,” said Murphy. “We particularly need housing in the downtown area, so people are closer to everything they need. We are also trying to raise funds or travel points to help people get here.”

People interested in offering accommodation, making donations for flights, or volunteering to help Ukrainians arriving in Smithers can look on Facebook for “Smithers BC Helps Ukraine” or contact “Northwest BC for Ukraine” at nwbcforukraine@gmail.com.



editor@interior-news.com

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