Mike and Anastasia Kashura are familiar with running.
In 2014, the couple left their first home of Lugansk, Ukraine, behind when Russia first invaded Crimea, in the eastern part of the country. Anastasia was nine months pregnant with their first son, Svyatoslav.
“He is a child of war. He was born in 2014, the first of July, says Mike.
The young family fled to Kyiv, where their second son Matvey was born. Even though they found a home in the capital, they said they never felt safe.
“When the war started eight years ago, we saw how it was, and we always thought that it could be in Kyiv — it could be everywhere in Ukraine. We couldn’t live without worries. We are always worried about something,” he says.
And their worries will come true. On February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to eastern Ukrainian cities, and just a few days later, Russia launched a full-scale offensive against the country.
“Russia bombed every day for four months. It’s unbelievable, it’s terrible,” said Anastasia, who said she gets goosebumps just thinking about it.
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“If you speak Ukrainian, if you know Ukrainian history, then you are not Russian, and they want to kill you.”
The Kashurs again had to flee, this time to Canada. The family landed in Olx Praca on 12 April.
“(This is the second) time in our lives we have to start from scratch,” says Mike. “Living in Ukraine is very, very unsafe.”
“In 2014 … it was very hard, and the second time it’s harder, because you understand that you will never return,” said Anastasia.
“Your apartment could be destroyed…. A lifetime… packed into two suitcases. All your things, all your things remained in Ukraine.”
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“They didn’t understand”
But this time, Mike and Anastasia had two boys in tow.
The children, now three and seven, don’t quite understand what happened, Mike says, adding that his eldest son still believes they will return to Kyiv.
“He still thinks that we just moved here for a year, maybe two, and then someday we will return home, because he has many friends in Kyiv,” said Anastasia.
“Children don’t understand. It’s a big adventure for him.”
“We’re trying to explain, we’re trying to show some videos and some pictures, but it looks like they have some sort of shield against it,” says Mike. “They try to think everything is fine.”
“Everything is fine, because we are here,” says Anastasia.
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The couple says they lived with a host family for three weeks while they struggled to find their own accommodation.
“It was very important, because when you arrive, you don’t know where you will live, where you will sleep, renting a hotel is very expensive,” says Mike.
The Kashurs said the family helped them identify the SIN and explained Canadian culture.
“There are a lot of good people here in Olx Praca who want to help you,” says Anastasia.
She said she was overwhelmed by the support given that it came from people they had never met before – people who welcomed them into their home and bought them what they needed.
“We were very surprised to meet so many kind people,” says Mike.
“We can live in peace”
However, according to Mike, the arrangement was not without problems.
“First of all, you need an address if you want a SIN number. You need an address to get a phone number. You only need to get a bank account if you get a phone number, address, and SIN number. You need to get a credit history if you want to rent an apartment. It’s a circle, you know? he said.
Mike has since found a job, and while getting Svyatoslav into school was easy, the parents say childcare has become another hurdle. Now Matthew is on the waiting list, and Anastasia hopes to find him a place by September so that she, too, can find a job.
“We just started from scratch, but we know that everything will be fine, because Canada is a safe country,” says the father.
“We dream of staying here…. We think that everything will be fine here, Russia is too far from Canada.”
Despite leaving their home country, the young family is optimistic about their new life in Canada.
“In Canada, we can live in peace. We can build our lives and we can plan, plan our future in Canada.”
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