News Story

Ukrainian Refugees Find Open Arms and Generous Hearts in Western Canada

When the Russia/Ukraine conflict began on February 24, 2022, Nataliia and Paul Krukowski were certain it would take weeks or months before the fighting reached their home in Lutsk, Ukraine.

Three days later, they were not so sure. Bombs were dropping on the nearby airport, and the windows in their home shook from the powerful blasts. They made the painful decision to leave their home and most of their possessions. They took three suitcases, loaded their five young children into their small vehicle and drove 89 kilometres (55 miles) to Poland.

On April 18, 2022, the family of seven arrived in Lacombe, Alberta, where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints welcomed them and other displaced Ukrainians with open arms and the resources they would need to make a new start in Canada.

Hundreds Willing to Help

“We saw the opportunity to open the door for service to our members across the Calgary region,” explained Greg Stringham, the Church’s Ukrainian response co-ordinator in Calgary. “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, we had hundreds of people willing to help.”

This willingness quickly converted into donations of about 500 household essentials kits and backpacks for children and youth. All the Church’s efforts were conducted in partnership with St. Vladimir’s Ukrainian Orthodox Sobor, which is on the front end of receiving displaced Ukrainians who show up at their church for help.

According to Stringham, the overwhelming response prompted the Church in Calgary to continue collecting donations of household goods such as bedding, kitchenware and cell phone chargers to be dispensed over two months rather than all at once.

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.

Edmonton Church Members Donate to Welcome Centre

Calgary is not the only city where Church members are helping. In Edmonton, members donated, assembled and delivered 200 essentials kits to the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services Welcome Centre.

Francesco Mosaico, a Church leader in the Edmonton area, said, “I’m grateful to the Ukrainian Canadian Social Services Welcome Centre for creating an opportunity for us to support individuals and families who have been affected by this continuing tragedy. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we desire to help alleviate suffering and to inspire hope as He did and does. This invitation to help has provided us with a way to fulfill our deep desires to love and serve others.”

Making Pierogies to Raise Awareness and Funds

Meeting essential physical needs of incoming Ukrainian families is only one aspect of the Church’s desire to offer relief. In central Alberta, women from the Church gathered to learn about Ukrainian culture, collect kitchen supplies for displaced Ukrainians and make pierogies.  (Pierogies, or “varenyky,” as they are called in the Ukraine, are traditional dumplings stuffed with potatoes, cheese or sauerkraut and served with a topping of sour cream.)

“The Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee is a co-ordinated effort by several churches, businesses and local government leaders to prepare to assist displaced Ukrainians as they arrive in central Alberta,” said Melanie Law, Red Deer Alberta Stake Relief Society president. “We met at the St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church to co-ordinate 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 Grande Prairie, Alberta, the Ukrainian Catholic Parish also hosted a traditional pierogi and sausage dinner to raise funds and awareness. The parish leader, Father Matthew Drury, planned a cultural evening of food, music and dancing by the Troyanda Ukrainian Dancers. Local Church member Leslie Whipple co-ordinated with the parish to offer supplies and volunteers to make the evening a success. Dinner was served to over 500 people, and the event raised nearly $20,000 in relief funds.

Bishop Ryan Trofanenko, leader of the local congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his family were eager to participate. His wife, Lori, said, “I was so glad to have the chance to help out. It was inspiring to watch two churches work together with cheerful hearts.”

Bishop Trofanenko remarked, “We made new friends with our neighbours at the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Our working together with them for the Ukrainian people was, as Father Matthew said, ‘pure Christianity at its best.’”

Motivated by Love for God and Neighbour

Elder David C. Stewart, the Area Seventy for the North America Central Area, said, “When it comes to our desire to help others, we believe strongly that we are all spiritual children, daughters and sons, of Deity. Much good has happened in Alberta from members of our faith. This includes providing aid for refugees, organizing and participating in food drives as well as many other organized and individual acts of service. Some involve money. Most involve time, which is possibly our most important commodity. All are done out of love for God and love for our neighbour.”

The children of Nataliia and Paul Krukowski started school on April 25, 2022, and their parents are looking for employment. “Many people helped us while we were in Poland and also helped us get to Canada,” said Nataliia. “We are very grateful to everyone who has helped. Our family is together and safe.”

Canada has the world’s third-largest Ukrainian population after Ukraine and Russia. In 2016, over 1.3 million people of Ukrainian origin were residing in Canada. The vast majority of Ukrainian Canadians live in the prairie provinces, with approximately 350,000 residing in Alberta. Those who would like to assist displaced Ukrainians in central Alberta can reach out to the Ukrainian Displaced Persons Planning Committee by email at

Read the article in French

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