Menu
In the News

From donating essentials to making pierogies, western Canada welcomes Ukrainian refugees


Much of the attention of the Latter-day Saints and others tending to the flight, plight and needs of refugees escaping the Russia/Ukraine conflict has understandably been focused on efforts by neighboring nations and communities in eastern, central and western Europe.

However, displaced Ukrainian refugees are finding open arms and generous hearts in western Canada — specifically, the province of Alberta — according to a recent ChurchofJesusChrist.org report.

Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population, after Ukraine and Russia. In 2016, more than 1.3 million people of Ukrainian origin were residing in Canada — the vast majority of Ukrainian Canadians living in the prairie provinces, including the 350,000 residing in Alberta.

As such, refugee response has been swift and extensive throughout Alberta, coming not only from major cities such as Calgary and Edmonton but smaller cities ranging from Red Deer to Grande Prairie.

At the Calgary Centre for Newcomers drop-off in June 2022, Calgary-region members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated essential items to assist displaced Ukrainian families and individuals arriving in Canada.

At the Calgary Centre for Newcomers drop-off in June 2022, Calgary-region members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated essential items to assist displaced Ukrainian families and individuals arriving in Canada.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“When it comes to our desire to help others, we believe strongly that we are all spirit children, daughters and sons, of Deity,” said Elder David C. Stewart, an Area Seventy for the North American Central Area who resides in Lethbridge, Alberta.

“Much good has happened in Alberta from members of our faith. This includes providing aids for refugees, organizing and participating in food drives as well as many other organized and individual acts of service.”

Some efforts and projects have involved money, while most involved time, “which is possibly our most important commodity,” Elder Stewart added. “All are done out of love for God and love for our neighbor.”

From western Ukraine to western Canada

Nataliia and Paul Krukowski of Lutsk, Ukraine, are examples of those seeking refuge in Alberta. When the Russia/Ukraine conflict began on Feb. 24, they thought any fighting that might reach their home in western Ukraine would likely take weeks or even months.

But within days, bombs were dropped on the nearby airport, shaking their home. The Krukowskis decided to leave their home and most of their possessions, loading their five children and three suitcases into their small car and driving the 89 kilometers (55 miles) to Poland.

On April 18, the family of seven arrived in Lacombe in central Alberta, 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) north of Red Deer and 125 kilometers (78 miles) south of Edmonton. Latter-day Saints there welcomed them and other displaced refugees with resources to help make a new start in Canada, some 8,000 kilometers (nearly 5,000 miles) from their native Ukraine.

Within a week, the Kurkowski children were enrolled in local schools, with their parents beginning to seek employment.

“Many people helped us while we were in Poland and also helped us get to Canada,” Nataliia Krukowski said. “We are very grateful to everyone who has helped. Our family is together and safe.”

Calgary: Survey leads to service, donations

Calgary Alberta Foothills Stake Relief Society President Val Harker collects hundreds of Ukrainian relief items donated by Calgary-region members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Calgary Centre for Newcomers drop-off in June 2022.

Calgary Alberta Foothills Stake Relief Society President Val Harker collects hundreds of Ukrainian relief items donated by Calgary-region members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Calgary Centre for Newcomers drop-off in June 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Greg Stringham, the Church’s Ukrainian response coordinator in Calgary, said local leaders saw an opportunity to open the door for service by members from the Calgary area.

“We sent out a survey to all Church members asking for their willingness to help — first with donations of household essentials kits, and then other potential needs such as temporary housing, transportation, employment and childcare.

“Within days, he had hundreds of people willing to help.”

The first response resulted in the donation of about 500 household essential kits and backpacks for children and youth. The Church’s efforts were conducted in partnership with St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor, a key arrival point for displaced Ukrainians seeking help.

Volunteers Sara and Jay Sheen unload Ukrainian aid essentials donated by Calgary-region members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Calgary Centre for Newcomers drop-off June 2022.

Volunteers Sara and Jay Sheen unload Ukrainian aid essentials donated by Calgary-region members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the Calgary Centre for Newcomers drop-off June 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The overwhelming response prompted the Church to sustain its collection of household goods such as bedding, kitchenware and cellphone chargers, with items to be dispensed over several months rather than all at once.

With temporary housing still a top need for Ukrainian refugees arriving in Calgary, Mount Royal University student residences — available during the summer — are being considered for use.

Temporary housing remains a top need for Ukrainians coming to Calgary. Efforts are underway to use Mount Royal University student residences, which are available during the summer.

Read more: What the Church and its members are doing to help in Eastern Europe

Edmonton: Helping at a ‘welcome center’

In Edmonton, Latter-day Saints donated, assembled and delivered 200 essential kits to the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services Welcome Center.

President Francesco M. Mosaico, president of the Sherwood Park Alberta Stake, expressed gratitude for the welcome center in creating an opportunity for local members to support individuals and families affected by the conflict.

“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we desire to help alleviate suffering and to inspire hope as He did and does,” he said. “This invitation to help has provided us with a way to fulfill our deep desire to love and serve others.”

Red Deer / Grand Prairie: The power of pierogies

In central Alberta, Latter-day Saint women have gathered to learn about Ukrainian culture, collect kitchen supplies — and make pierogies.

In central Alberta, women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered to make pierogies, learn about Ukrainian culture and collect kitchen supplies for displaced Ukrainian refugees, April 2022.

In central Alberta, women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered to make pierogies, learn about Ukrainian culture and collect kitchen supplies for displaced Ukrainian refugees, April 2022.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Pierogies — or “varenyky,” as they are called in Ukraine — are traditional dumplings stuffed with potatoes, cheese or sauerkraut and served with a topping of sour cream.

Melanie Law, stake Relief Society president in the Red Deer Alberta Stake, explained how the Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee is a coordinated effort between several churches, businesses and local government leaders to prepare to assist displaced Ukrainians as they arrive in central Alberta.

“We met at the St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church to coordinate our efforts. There are over 50 displaced people here so far, and many more are on their way. We’re trying to help as best we can, and this effort is bringing our community together as a whole.”

In support of local Ukrainian relief efforts, Church members worked with others in Grande Prairie, Alberta, in March 2022 to prepare and serve a traditional pierogi dinner to over 500 members of the community.

In support of local Ukrainian relief efforts, Church members worked with others in Grande Prairie, Alberta, in March 2022 to prepare and serve a traditional pierogi dinner to over 500 members of the community.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

In Grande Prairie, the Ukrainian Catholic Parish hosted a traditional pierogi and sausage dinner to raise funds and awareness, with Father Matthew Drury, the parish leader planning a cultural evening of food, music and dancing by the Troyanda Ukrainian Dancers.

Local Latter-day Saint Leslie Whipple coordinated with the parish to offer supplies and volunteers for the evening, with dinner served to more than 500 people and nearly $20,000 raised in relief funds.

In March 2022, community members in Grande Prairie, Alberta, enjoyed an evening of food, music and dancing to support Ukrainian relief efforts. The community event raised nearly $20,000 to support displaced refugees.

In March 2022, community members in Grande Prairie, Alberta, enjoyed an evening of food, music and dancing to support Ukrainian relief efforts. The community event raised nearly $20,000 to support displaced refugees.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Bishop Ryan Trofanenko of the Bear Creek Ward, Grande Prairie Alberta Stake, underscored the new friendships and relationships with the Ukrainian Catholid Church. “Our working together with them for the Ukrainian people was, as Father Matthew said, ‘pure Christianity at its best,’ ” Bishop Trofanenko said.

Added his wife, Lori Trofanenko: “I was so glad to have the chance to help out. It was inspiring to see two churches work together with cheerful hearts.”

To help

Those interested in assisting displaced Ukrainians in central Alberta can email the Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee at ukr.dis.families@gmail.com.

In March 2022, leaders of neighbouring churches united to support Ukrainian refugees. Back: Tim Burnham of the Grande Prairie Alberta Stake presidency, Father Matthew Drury of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and Bishop Ryan Trofanenko of the Bear Creek Alberta Ward. Front: Members of Troyanda Ukrainian Dancers: Kayle Taylor, Joseph Ibach and Gerard Ibach.

In March 2022, leaders of neighbouring churches united to support Ukrainian refugees. Back: Tim Burnham of the Grande Prairie Alberta Stake presidency, Father Matthew Drury of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and Bishop Ryan Trofanenko of the Bear Creek Alberta Ward. Front: Members of Troyanda Ukrainian Dancers: Kayle Taylor, Joseph Ibach and Gerard Ibach.

Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Newsletters
Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed