170 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion arrive in New Brunswick on charter flight

·3 min read

MONCTON, N.B. — Olha Oliinyk displayed a broad smile as she stepped off a charter flight in Moncton, N.B., Tuesday as part of a group of 170 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion.

"I am really grateful because it was a very warm meeting here in Canada. It was a very long and hard flight," she said.

The flight into Moncton was greeted by provincial officials, including Premier Blaine Higgs, and people were handed small New Brunswick flags as they got off the plane.

Higgs said he hopes the province can provide the new arrivals the comfort and safety they need.

"It's certainly a big day for New Brunswick but a bigger day for the people getting away from the trauma back home," he told reporters as the plane touched down.

Unlike other flights that have been chartered by the federal government, Tuesday's flight was chartered by the province.

"We did not have flights coming here directly to New Brunswick but we had a lot of people very interested to be on the ground in Europe to organize activities, so we were able to identify a number of people who could come here and we said we were willing to charter a plane to make it happen," Higgs said.

"We will continue to do this. It's the right thing to do in the case of a world crisis," he said.

A provincial immigration team has worked with settlement agencies, employers, community organizations and the Red Cross to prepare for the Ukrainians, who will join about 300 compatriots who have arrived in the province since the war began.

The Canadian Red Cross was part of the welcoming group, offering blankets and toys to the families.

Allie Murchison-McGuire, communications and government relations adviser for the Atlantic provinces for the Canadian Red Cross, said the agency is working in Ukraine and Poland, so they are a familiar group that's offering help.

As the families cleared security, they made their way into a welcoming area -- many looking weary from the long flight as they pushed suitcases and strollers and consoled young children.

One little boy was fascinated by a row of journalists with their cameras and bright lights. Yehor Titov, 3, wore a shark hat and a red sweatshirt that had the words "We are the Future" on the front. He waved and smiled at the cameras.

The province also had welcome kits for the families. Welcome kits for adults included practical information on applying for a Social Insurance Number and medicare, while those for children held colouring books and snacks.

Most of the newcomers are expected to settle in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.

Arlene Dunn, the province's minister responsible for immigration, said jobs have already been arranged for many of the newcomers.

"Primarily we have trucking jobs lined up as well as manufacturing jobs, food service jobs, food processing jobs and forestry jobs," she said.

Dunn said the province hopes to welcome about 1,000 people from Ukraine.

Oliinyk said she was looking forward to getting settled in and beginning her new life in Canada.

"We are planning to stay in Moncton. I come here with my family, my little daughter three years old and my husband. We plan to work and live here," she said.

However, she said her heart weighs heavy for the people they've left behind.

"We remember every day about our country in Ukraine," she said. "It is a terrible situation."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 7, 2022.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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