Pavlo Demenshyn wants to be close to nature, have a house of his own, and see his daughter get a good education.
He was hoping New Brunswick could be the place where that happened. Then on Feb. 24, his family’s plan to leave Ukraine for Saint-Quentin, N.B., came crashing down as he heard explosions in the distance followed by Russian military helicopters overhead.
“Until now, we lived a normal and peaceful life,” Demenshyn said, speaking from the southern Ukrainian community of Pishchanka.
“[We] planned our move to Saint-Quentin, and wake up on February 24th. We couldn’t believe what’s happened.
“I was even going to go to work, and we only started to understand when the heavy explosions started, and we saw military helicopters and fighters and, and now we have a very bad situation.”
Russian forces continued Monday to pummel Ukrainian cities, including Mykolaiv, south of the capital of Kyiv.
Demenshyn is one of 12 Ukrainians already hired to start work at forestry company Groupe Savoie over the next few months, but their moves have been been put on hold indefinitely because of the war.
J.D. Irving Ltd., another forestry company in New Brunswick, had planned to bring over 110 workers from Ukraine, and says it’s now working with Ottawa to help expedite their arrival.
Demenshyn said he signed an offer to work as a machine operator for Groupe Savoie and has been nominated by the company to move to and work in New Brunswick.
He’s still waiting for his visa to enter Canada, but even if he received it, he’d still be unable to leave Ukraine because of a conscription order that bars men between 18 and 60 from leaving the country.
“We are simple people and we wanted to just live and work peaceful — build a better future for our family and our daughter … in a quiet country. So it’s my plan for near future, but I don’t know what we have.”
Demenshyn said he chose Saint-Quentin because it’s a rural community with easy access to the outdoors, and housing is more affordable than in other parts of Canada.
Apartment, school, office in ruins
Demenshyn lived in Irpin, a small city just outside the capital Kyiv, until he fled with his wife, Olesia Demenshyn, and daughter, Victoria Demenshyn, on the day Russia invaded.
They’re now staying with his wife’s mother in Pishchanka.
Since fleeing Irpin, Demenshyn said, he’s been in touch with former neighbours, friends and colleagues from the shop where he worked as a CNC machine operator.
He said the apartment building where they left most of their belongings has since been hit by missiles, along with the building that once housed his daughter’s school and his wife’s office.
“We have beautiful cities near from Kyiv — European cities — and now [we] lost it all.”