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Langford family opens home to Ukrainian refugees


Halyna Marenko and her four-year-old son, Mark, arrived at Victoria airport at around midnight on Monday. They didn’t know a soul in Canada, but were soon whisked to the Langford, B.C., home of Alla Pavlikhin.

Pavlikhin and her husband volunteered to open their home to the two strangers for as long as they need a place to stay.

“We are so happy to be a part of this helping process,” said Pavlikhin as she drank tea in her backyard with Halyna, and Mark played with toys.

The Langford resident said she was compelled to do something to help after watching the horrors unfolding in Ukraine. “Because I cannot sit and watch news and do nothing,” she said. “I need to do something.”

The Marenkos are amongst the first Ukrainian refugees arriving here under Canada's new emergency travel visas that allow Ukrainian refugees to stay in Canada for three years and allow them to work here.

But the mother and son’s journey to Vancouver Island didn’t come without a price. They left behind Mark's dad, Oleksia, who's back in Ukraine to fight the Russians. He remained in Dnipro, their home city, which has been under Russian attacks.

Pavlikhin, also Ukrainian, may be on the other side of the world from the violence destroying her homeland, but most all of her family is there and two relatives were recently killed by Russian bombs.

“It’s hard to even imagine that I will never see those people and my mom is there -- my mom is in Kyiv,” she said.

Pavlikhin says helping these desperate strangers gives her comfort.

“It doesn’t feel that I have a stranger in my home,” she said a few hours after meeting her new house guests. “It feels that I have friends that are visiting.”

Her new friends say they're grateful to Canada -- and the warm welcome they’ve received — and hope Mark’s father can join them here soon, as they try to build a new, safer life. Top Stories

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