Every week, a smattering of Yukoners patiently wait at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport. They are not there to welcome friends or family. They are waiting to see whether immigrants fleeing war in Ukraine have made the trip.
For the past month or so, a similar scene has played out most Tuesdays, when the weekly Condor flight from Frankfurt, Germany — the only direct flight from Europe to land north of 60 — touches down.
Yuliya Gnat was there. As a member of the Yukon government's Ukrainian family support desk, she told CBC News a little bit of help goes a long way these days, adding that one of the passengers who arrived yesterday is seven months pregnant.
"They are not excited to move from their homes, forced to be moved from their homes and be somewhere where they know nobody," said Gnat, who emigrated from Ukraine in 2011.
Government workers and volunteers provide the immigrants with food and cab rides to pre-booked hotels, along with information on jobs and the settlement process. Look at it as a first point of contact in Canada for many who don't speak English.
"It's a lot of questions, believe me, so we try to help as much as possible," said Gnat, adding she helps translate when needed. "I'm leaving them my contact information, so they can call me any time and ask more, if they want to, so I'm doing my best."
20 immigrants arrive Tuesday
People from Ukraine have been uprooted since the early days of the war, sparked by Russia's invasion of the country, which quickly retaliated. Immigrants have fled to neighbouring countries such as Poland, while others have left the continent altogether, to various Canada cities, including Whitehorse.
Twenty Ukrainians accessed Yukon government services yesterday, an Economic Development spokesperson told CBC News in an email.
Gnat said a family of four was expected to arrive last week, but that didn't happen and it's unclear why.
At least eight immigrants have decided to call Yukon home, while others — at least 34 — have transited through the territory onto other Canadian cities.
'We're here to help you'
The Ukrainian community in Whitehorse functions as a support network for the arrivals. Volunteer Elena Kozhvenikova helps out where she can most weeks. Her son, Roman Hermak, is now also chipping in. For them, volunteering their time is a small price to pay to ensure people have as smooth a transition as possible.
"For me, it is very difficult," Hermak said, "and I would like to help any people who are coming from Ukraine and who are trying to just have a better life and peace.
"I can understand what those people who are coming, what they are feeling. It's not easy to move from your home, where you lived your whole life."
Kozhvenikova said some people have lost everything, adding you can see that reflected in their faces.
"They really need assistance, and they're coming here to work," she said. "Ukrainians are hard workers.
"If they need help, we say to them, 'We can help you here. We're here to help you.'"