Mike and Anastasia Kashura are familiar with fleeing.
In 2014, the couple left their first home of Luhansk, Ukraine behind, when Russia first invaded Crimea, in the eastern part of the country. Anastasia was nine months pregnant with their first son, Sviatoslav.
“He’s a child of war. He was born in 2014, first of July,” Mike says.
The young family fled to Kyiv, where they had their second son, Matthew. Despite finding home in the capital city, they said they never truly felt safe.
“When the war started eight years ago, we saw how it was and we always thought that it could be in Kyiv — it could be everywhere in Ukraine. We couldn’t live with no worries. We always worried about something,” he says.
And their worries would come true. On Feb. 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into eastern Ukrainian cities, and just a few days later, Russia launched a full-scale assault on the country.
“Russia bombed every day for four months. It’s incredible, it’s terrible,” said Anastasia, who said she gets goosebumps just thinking about it.
“If you speak Ukrainian, if you know Ukrainian history, that’s why you are not Russian and they want to kill you.”
The Kashuras were forced to flee once again, this time, to Canada. The family landed in Halifax on April 12.
“(It’s the second) time in our life we must start from zero,” Mike says. “To live in Ukraine, it’s very, very unsafe.”
“In 2014 … it was very hard, and the second time it was more and more hard because you understand you can never come back,” said Anastasia.
“Your apartment can be destroyed…. All your life … packed in two baggage. All your stuff, all your things left in Ukraine.”
‘They didn’t understand’
But this time, Mike and Anastasia had their two boys in tow.
The children, now three and seven years old, don’t really understand what has happened, Mike says, adding that his eldest son still believes they will go back to Kyiv.
“He still thinks we just moved here for one, two years maybe and then we come back home someday, because a lot of friends in Kyiv he has,” said Anastasia.
“The children don’t understand. For him, it’s a big adventure.”
“We try and explain, we try and show some videos and some photos but it looks like they have some shield from this,” Mike says. “They try to think everything (is) good.”
“Everything (is) good because we are here,” Anastasia says.
The pair say they stayed with a host family for three weeks while they struggled to find a place of their own.
“It was very important, because when you’re arriving you don’t know where you will be living, where you will be sleeping, to rent a hotel – very expensive,” says Mike.
The Kashuras said the family helped set them up with a SIN number and explained Canadian culture.
“A lot of good people here in Halifax, they want to help you,” says Anastasia.
She said she was overwhelmed by the support, considering it came from people they had never met before — people who welcomed them into their home and bought them what they needed.
“We were very surprised when we met so many kind people,” says Mike.
‘We can live in peace’
Settling in, however, wasn’t without its challenges, Mike says.
“First of all, you need the address if you want to get a SIN number. You need an address to get a phone number. You need to get a bank account only if you get a phone number and address and SIN number. You need to get a credit history if you want to rent an apartment. It’s a circle, you know?” he said.
Mike has since found a job, and while getting Sviatoslav into school was easy, the parents say child care was another hurdle. Matthew is currently on wait-lists, and Anastasia hopes to find him a spot by September, so she can also find a job.
“We just started from zero, but we know that everything will be OK because Canada is a safe country,” says the father.
“We dream to stay here…. We think that everything will be good here, Russia is too far from Canada.”
Despite leaving their home country behind, the young family is optimistic about their new lives in Canada.
“In Canada, we can live in peace. We can build our life and we can plan, plan our future in Canada.”
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