Ukrainian family welcomed to Fort Frances

By Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A Ukrainian family has been settling comfortably in Fort Frances for the past two months.

Yana and her two young children, Sasha, 8, and Zlata, 3, found their way to Fort Frances around February earlier this year. They are currently housed at La Place Rendez-Vous where Yana has also found a job.

Sarah Noonan, general manager at La Place Rendez-Vous Hotel, said that she was asked by a connection about her interest in employing immigrants, to which Noonan replied ‘yes’ and that she believed the future workforce would be highly dependent on foreign workers. 

Yana originally landed in Winnipeg but the original joint living and childcare situation didn’t work out, Noonan says. Wanda Johnson, who was the first point of contact, told Yana about Fort Frances which piqued her interest in living in a small town.

The challenges of immigrating to a new country are many. Even though Yana can speak English, there is still lots to learn — such as where to go if she needs a family doctor, how to get a driver’s licence, the application process for permanent residency, or even the best place to buy necessities for her kids.

Furthermore, the costs of rent, childcare, transportation, food, dental care, and other essentials can be difficult to carry as a single mother.

Due to the war going on, Yana’s husband was not allowed to leave Ukraine with the rest of his family.

Based on her understanding, Noonan said Yana and her family don’t currently qualify for many supports in Canada until over a year later when they can work toward becoming permanent residents. 

To help Yana and her kids settle in the area, Noonan has joined hands with Duane Cridland, Johnson, and Yulia Korunnaya. 

“I think the main person that made contact with [Yana] first was Wanda Johnson,” Noonan said. “Through just herself and possibly her church, she just had connected with some people in different Canadian cities that are Ukrainian.”

Ukrainian refugees Yana and her children Sasha and Zlata have settled in Fort Frances. Yana is being supported with housing and employment by La Place Rendez-Vous. The family is hoping their husband and father, who has joined the war effort in Ukraine, can join them here someday. – Submitted photo

“We just became this little group that prepared for her arrival,” Noonan said. “We’re just trying to help line up the essentials for her so that she has somewhere to go, potentially had a job to come to. So we ended up putting her up at the Rendez-Vous as well — we have a longer term stay unit like more of a comfortable living format. So we’ve actually put her up for a couple of months just to help her get started.”

For the time being, Yana works full-time in housekeeping at the Rendez-Vous. 

Noonan has also been researching into the skilled trades programs at Ontario colleges and the permanence residency process so that Yana can one day continue pursuing her trade as a hairstylist.

Yana’s oldest child, Sasha, attends school at St. Mary School. Noonan said they are currently still looking for childcare for Zlata.

“It’s been a good learning opportunity too, to see what’s available in town and try to point her in the right direction,” Noonan said. “We care a lot about her. But also, she loves Canada, she thinks that she wants to stay here forever. She’s hoping that her husband can come soon, she says that there’s not much of a future in Ukraine for her children, and she wants to be here. And she just feels very welcomed by the community.”

“For example, Yulia — [Yana’s youngest child] got slotted into nursery school this spring, so she got to do that for a couple of months. And they have a morning and an afternoon session Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but they have an hour and a half break between the morning and the afternoon session. So Yulia would take time away from her business and go pick Zlata up, watch her for the hour and a half and drive her back for the afternoon session.”

“She did that three days a week for her so that Yana could work at the Rendez-Vous those three days,” Noonan said. “That’s a pretty amazing thing that Yulia did for her so that she could work and she watched her child, she drove her back and forth. And then she’d pick her up from a daycare, or nursery school as well every day. And she speaks Ukrainian, she understands the culture.”

“I couldn’t imagine coming to a new country, language, new culture, like everything new and trying to figure it all out. So I think that having Yulia as a Ukrainian connection has been pretty great,” Noonan said. 

She added that the community in Fort Frances is very supportive and believes they would jump at the opportunity to offer help to Yana’s family. 

“We do want to open an effort so that she has at least her basic needs met for a little while. So she gets her feet under her here in Canada,” she said.

Noonan said more information may be provided in the near future about how residents can help Yana’s family get settled in Fort Frances.