A Ukrainian family is settling in to their new life in Summerside, P.E.I., after staff and management at Atlantic Beef Products helped raise money to bring them here.
Anatolii Merdukh has been a temporary foreign worker at the beef plant in Albany for a year, and was on the Island when he first heard the news of Russian troops invading Ukraine in late February.
When the war broke out, his wife, Oksana, fled Kyiv immediately with their children, Diana and Arsenii, and the family cat Mikki — crossing the border through neighbouring Romania, and eventually ending up in Spain.
Anatolii wrestled with the idea of leaving the beef plant to join them in Europe.
"It was very stressful for me," he said. "I just think … maybe I'll never see my family again."
But his company and co-workers convinced him to stay by fundraising nearly $9,000 worth of essentials and helping the family get to P.E.I. safely.
The family was reunited at the Charlottetown Airport on May 7.
'The right thing to do'
Anatolii said he wasn't able to think about anything else at work other than finding ways to bring his family to Canada.
Meanwhile, his daughter Diana was thousands of kilometres away feeling the same panic.
"I wanted to see my father again," she said. "I didn't think about anything, only about my dad."
Russ Mallard, president of Atlantic Beef Products, said Anatolii was distraught, but Mallard told him the company would do everything it could to help him.
The company helped the family retreat to Spain — where they had access to a Canadian embassy — and secure their flights to Toronto, as well as organizing a hotel stay for them in the city before touching down in Charlottetown the next day.
"It's just the right thing to do," he said.
Staff raised funds and management matched what was raised, which helped with everything from rent, airfare and extra money to get their life started in the country. Non-monetary donations like furniture were also included in the contributions.
"I hope that they find P.E.I. as their new home," said Mallard. "It'll never be the home they left, but hopefully it'll be a new home." Anatolii hopes to settle in P.E.I. and stay here for a long time.
Diana said she is grateful for all the people who have helped her family.
"It was a beautiful moment for me," she said.