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Ukrainian refugees in Williams Lake enjoy camaraderie, traditional meal at local apiary

They were invited to the home of Katya Potekhina, senior immigration and settlement navigator.
Ukrainian refugees in Williams Lake recently visited the home of Katya Potekhina, senior immigration and settlement navigator with Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy in 150 Mile House. (Photo submitted)

Ukrainian refugees, working and living in Williams Lake, visited Fox Mountain Honey apiary for a get-together earlier in December.

Katya Potekhina, senior immigration and settlement navigator with Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy (CCPL), held the event at her farm/apiary in 150 Mile House.

CCPL and Cariboo residents donated food and car-pooling for the event to come true.

Potekhina and her husband made a traditional Ukrainian dinner, arranged sledding for the children and showed their guests the farm animals and bee hives.

“We are creating our farm as a small piece of Ukraine,” she said. “We decided why don’t we invite them to feel a bit of home, like Ukraine.”

Every refugee went home with a jar of raw local honey.

Potekhina said there are about 15 refugees in Williams Lake area, who began arriving in September 2022. Among those are several school-aged children.

The majority of them had employment when they arrived at places such as Tim Hortons and two people at RL7 Mechanical Ltd. Some of them work two jobs.

Lori Whittingham, one of the owners of RL7, said husband and wife Yevhen and Daryna Kropyvnytskyi began working there in September.

They applied after seeing an add on a Canada employment site and have work visas until 2025 and are hoping to get landed immigrant status before them.

“They are super nice people and really hard working,” Whittingham said, noting she has signed them up for school and apprenticeships.

“They have a daughter who will be three in January. They have her in the Catholic school daycare.”

Whittingham said Yevhen lived and worked in Ontario between 2014 and 2018, but went back home to Ukraine where he met Daryna.

The family is living in a rental at McLeese Lake that belongs to Whittingham’s daughter.

“We let them get a puppy because the first few days they were living at the house, there were bears coming into the yard to eat the crab apples and they were a little nervous,” Whittingham said. “Welcome to Canada.”

Potekhina said there is also a veterinary doctor from Ukraine, employed as vet technician in one of local vet clinics. She will be permitted to practice as vet doctor once she passes the licensing exams. She is in the process of arranging required paperwork and preparing for an English language exam in order to be admitted to licensing examination.

“She’s fluent in English and highly qualified.”

Upon the refugees’ arrival, CCPL provides immigration and settlement services, Potekhina said.

Their English language skills range from beginner to advanced and some of them are being placed in CCPL’s English language programs.

“Some of them already started and I think I will do intake for three new arrivals very soon.”

Potekhina lived between two countries in the past: Ukraine and Russia.

In 2006 they left and moved to Richmond and to Williams Lake in 2014.

Potekhin’s knowledge of Ukrainian culture and language will help those who will move to Williams Lake from the war zone to settle faster and feel more support.

A big thank you to CCPL, Cariboo residents-volunteers Alyona Boyko and her spouse Gregory, Dmitrii Danilov, Yevhen and Daryna Kropyvnytskyi - and Fox Mountain Honey Apiary for their combined effort in arranging this important event, she added.

READ MORE: ‘This is what B.C. does’: Minister Cullen commends community response to Ukrainian refugees

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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