A young Ukrainian man who fled his country to start fresh in Canada is thanking the London, Ont. host family who made him feel welcome when he first arrived.
Yaroslav Obidnyk, 21, left Luhansk Oblast in May, and like thousands of other Ukrainians, he arrived at Toronto’s Pearson airport with feelings of uncertainty.
“When I fly to Canada, I can’t speak English. I’m not understanding explanations, but Grant and Patty taught me,” said Obidnyk about the couple who would help him understand the country and its culture.
Patty Buckley and her husband Grant McIntyre said they did what they could as hosts after getting involved with Ukraine Help Middlesex, a London-based community group that’s helped dozens of families resettle.
The first step was working on language skills, getting documents, a bank account and a job. Thanks to Buckley’s son, Obidnyk was soon working as a dishwasher at the Tobermory Brewing Company, in the Georgian Bay community.
“He hated it,” said Buckley, but adding that he worked hard at the restaurant all summer. It was a start, and it opened doors to learning about the weather and wilderness.
She recalls the day he bought a paddleboard, took it out on Lake Huron, where he got lost in the water for eight hours, prompting a massive search.
He was later found near a construction site and was treated for hypothermia at a hospital.
“He’s very independent and extraordinarily bright, but very adventurous,” she explains.
Obidnyk has since become part of the couple’s real family, participating in a wedding and endearing himself to those he’s met. Recently, he moved to Woodstock, Ont. after landing a job at a Toyota dealership.
“It’s very amazing. Lots of new information which was very important for me,” Obidnyk said. His host family helped him prepare for the interview, which he did in English, despite the interviewee being fluent in Ukrainian, and helped with his resume.
“He got the job and he got the job on his own,” Buckley said, adding Obidnyk has come a long way from the tine he landed in Canada.
The young man now says his goal is to get permanent residency in Canada and to keep learning from everybody around him.
“If I see a person, I study. How does this person speak? How is this person thinking?” he said. “Every day, I’m changing my mind. Every day changes.”
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