Hosting Ukrainian refugees challenging — and rewarding — experience, Ennismore family says

Part 2 of a 2-part series on Ukrainians who are finding peace in Peterborough after Russia invaded Ukraine one year ago.

While hosting Olena and her young son has been a deeply rewarding and fulfilling experience for Ennismore’s Art and Linda DuTemple and their family, hosting comes with a slew of challenges, and he wants would-be hosts to be aware of the immense responsibilities that come with taking on the role.

“It’s not easy. Being a host is hard. Bringing strangers into your home can be challenging,” Art DuTemple said. “There’s wonderful bits to it and there’s fantastic bits to it but there’s also challenging bits to it.”

There are language barriers and cultural differences. But Art and Linda are glad that they have been able to support their family and get them back on their feet. Likewise, he’s thrilled the stars aligned and he and his family were able to finally bring Olena and her son to Canada.

“There may be people who are considering being hosts,” DuTemple said. “It’s a tremendously rewarding experience. My wife and I set out to help people in need. It’s a different way to help the war effort than just giving money — it’s helping in a real, tangible way. And we did that. That’s our reward; my wife and I feel great about what we did.”

DuTemple has some advice for people wishing to host Ukrainian refugees.

“Most hosts should set a target end date. Four months is reasonable,” he said, adding that’s how long his first family stayed with the DuTemples in Ennismore.

He’s hoping Olena will be well-positioned to leave with Nikita with a good job in June or so — possibly to the GTA area — but being a single mom it may be tough with Nikita in school, he said.

“We’re committed to supporting them until they’re in a position to be successful. We’re not kicking anybody out,” DuTemple said.

He stressed the hosts need to keep realistic expectations before taking on the task.

“Your objective going into this cannot be that you want to host a family and develop a loving, lifelong relationship with them,” DuTemple said.

“Our objective was that we were going to help a family running from the war to settle here in Canada. That’s what we’re going to do and that’s how we’re helping the war effort, because every day that Olena is here with Nick and they’re safe is a day that their parents aren’t worried about them, worried if they have enough food to feed them, will they be killed or taken away.

“If you do develop a lasting, loving relationship, which I believe we have with Olena and Nick, then that’s just a real bonus. It’s beautiful. When you watch the three kids playing together it’s beautiful. It’s a gift.”

He put Ukraine’s position in perspective.

“Imagine you wake up one day and you turn on your TV and what you hear is that the United States has crossed into Canada and they’re now laying siege on Toronto. Sounds crazy but that is exactly what happened to Ukraine,” DuTemple said.

“You just realize that’s the kind of thing that’s worth fighting for, fighting for your country, for your freedom, because these people are going to die for it and I’m quite passionate about it. That these people are going to die for what they believe in, to say free.”

Yvonne Lai, director of community development at the New Canadians Centre at 221 Romaine St., praised the DuTemples.

“Art and Linda have been very generous with their home, personal time and resources to assist two Ukrainian families. The welcome, support and initiative from private hosts like them has been crucial for the continuing Ukrainian resettlement effort in Canada,” Lai stated.

Since last spring, the NCC has seen more than 200 Ukrainian refugees come through its doors.

The agency, which serves Peterborough city and county and also Northumberland County, has also helped with resettlements of Afghan and Syrian refugees in recent years.

Information on how people can help with resettlement is posted on the agency’s website at

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner