Moncton Ukrainian Club creating cultural hub to welcome newcomers

·3 min read
Natalia Haidash is an executive member of the Ukrainian Club of Moncton.  She feels deep gratitude for the support shown by people in the community. (Kate Letterick/CBC News  - image credit)
Natalia Haidash is an executive member of the Ukrainian Club of Moncton. She feels deep gratitude for the support shown by people in the community. (Kate Letterick/CBC News - image credit)

Natalia Haidash smiles as she looks around a former church on Park Street in Moncton's downtown, now filled with donations for Ukrainian newcomers.

"We want to make one of a kind, biggest cultural and social centre for all Ukrainians in Atlantic Canada," said Haidash, an executive member of the Ukrainian Club of Moncton.

"I'm sure we have the will to do that. We have incredible support from this community and we've got the best place we could have dreamt of a few weeks ago."

A section of the basement is almost full of clothes, bedding, shoes, coats, kitchen items and stuffed animals. Bikes, televisions and some bigger items are upstairs in the former sanctuary.

Kate Letterick/CBC News
Kate Letterick/CBC News

Downstairs, workers are busy making seven residential rooms to accommodate up to 30 people who need a place to stay.

So many donations have come in, larger items have been stored in a donated warehouse space.

Haidash and her husband Andrii immigrated to Canada in 2017. They are the founders of a handmade leather goods and jewelry business in Moncton.

Haidash says even though donations have been pouring in since the church was turned over to the association rent-free by a local entrepreneur, support for the Ukrainian community began as soon as the conflict started.

"When my neighbours started bringing food to our doors and treats for my three-year-old, like we did not expect that," she said.

Kate Letteric/CBC News
Kate Letteric/CBC News

"And then my neighbour went across the street and put blue and yellow stripes on every tree. Nobody asked them to do that."

According to data collected by the Ukrainian Club, approximately 200 people have already arrived in the Greater Moncton area since the beginning of the war. But it's hard to get an exact number.

"We only know about these people when they come for help and some people, let's say with elderly parents who arriving to their kids and they do not need housing and do not need that much support because their kids can take care of them, they won't necessarily reach out to us and it's hard to trace each of them, but we do our best," Haidash said.

Olesia Bulenok arrived in Canada about 4 years ago, and says she and her family moved here with very little. She's volunteering at the centre, and says many of the people coming now had to leave their homes with nothing.

Bulenok feels the centre offers more than just material items.

Kate Letterick/CBC News
Kate Letterick/CBC News

"All families who just arrived, they came here to just collect stuff and also they come in here to help sorting stuff and I was thinking it's kind of a social place – they can come in and communicate with each other, they can practice English. Like, they had a hard time back there, right? And it's kind of psychological help," she said.

Bulenok says donations of used clothing are not needed right now. But furniture, mattresses and bikes are still required. She says volunteers, especially those who can help deliver big items, are also welcomed.

Vic Shaw owns several apartment buildings in Moncton, and stopped at the centre to drop off some toys that had been left behind in one of his units.

"I'm pretty close, I'm pretty familiar with the demand for housing and the demand for everything to help Ukrainian people, so I'm trying to do my part to help out and I've rented out a number of apartments to Ukrainians and I have more coming my way," he said.

Pierre Fournier/CBC News
Pierre Fournier/CBC News

Natalia Haidash says she's incredibly grateful for the kindness shown to the Ukrainian community, and she hopes it will continue.

Although local fundraising efforts are paying for repairs to the building, she says the long term plan is to find funding to eventually pay for the building and the operational costs.

In the meantime, the centre is open for donations on Tuesday and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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