A Ukrainian refugee finds a new life in the GTA with the help of the local auto industry

If there is such a thing as the Canadian dream, Alexey Dukach said he is living it with his wife, Hanna, and their young daughters.

“In every moment we were lucky,” he said. “I think there is a destiny. Maybe God helps you. People see you are starving and how hard you are trying to do this. The full galaxy helps you.”

Originally from Ukraine, Dukach and his family were forced to flee their home earlier this year because of the Russian invasion. Today, they are living in the Greater Toronto Area, where Dukach has been able to make a home for his family thanks in part to members of the local auto industry.

“It was a dream for me to come here and now I can say I’m living the Canadian dream,” he said. “I am living in a house, I have a job, I have a car so we can travel with our kids. So, yes, coming to Canada on Sept. 12 changed my life and my family.

“I’ve talked two or three times about it with my wife. We are so unbelievably lucky. We’ve found opportunities and we’ve used it.”

Dukach and his wife, both 35, and their daughters Dasha, eight, and Polina, five, lived a quiet life in Dnipro in central Ukraine. He owned and operated a business importing cars from elsewhere in Europe and the U.S., making small repairs and then selling them. She worked as a client manager for a building company. Life was good.

But their lives were literally rocked on Feb. 24 when Russia started to bomb Ukraine. He received a telephone call at 5:45 a.m. from a friend who worked at the airport and indicated it was being bombed.

“I remember this very clear,” Dukach said. “I had my birthday earlier in the month, but I didn’t celebrate it because we understood something bad would happen in the near future.”

After hanging up. He woke up his wife and they turned on the television to see scenes of the capital, Kyiv, being bombed. “It was very hard to believe,” he said. Emergency sirens soon started wailing in his city, warning of possible attacks. Each time they heard the warnings, the family huddled in an area of the apartment that provided the best shelter.

“It was so hard to explain to the kids what was happening,” Dukach said. “We tried to prepare some games so they would not worry (about the emergency signals). They could happen at any time of the day. They could last for about an hour or two hours. You have to just sit and wait.”

After a week, they decided to leave their home and headed to western Ukraine. For about six weeks, they lived in different cities but, with no indication the bombing would stop, the decision was made to no leave Ukraine.

In early April, Dukach bought three bus tickets and sent his wife and two children to live in Germany. Every day he would try to contact his family through the internet. “That time changed my life because it is so hard to live when you understand that your family is taken care of, but you are not with them,” he said. “A lot of men in Ukraine thought the same thing.”

At the end of June, Dukach was able to leave Ukraine and join them. With no desire to stay in Germany, the couple thought about immigrating to Canada or the United States. Dukach had lived around New York and New Jersey on a student exchange while in university 15 years earlier.

Monitoring the internet, he saw that Canada had begun a program allowing Ukrainians to apply for 10-year visas and three-year work permits with a chance for permanent residence. The family found a Canadian site that helped Ukrainians and immediately began filling out the necessary government documentation.

They chose the Greater Toronto Area because they knew someone living in Oakville. However, the cost of living there was too much, so they settled on Milton. They received a one-time payment of $9,000 through the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel.

Dukach bought plane tickets and arrived in September. An organization called Nova Ukraine paid for their lodging for two weeks at an Airbnb until they found a rental property. “Even now I don’t understand clearly that I am here in Canada,” he said.

After arriving in Canada, he reached out to Russian immigrant Katya Sundukova who, along with her husband, Jason Campbell, has been helping Ukrainian refugees arriving in Canada. Sundukova worked with Dukach on his resumé and she contact people in the automotive industry that might be looking for help.

She phoned Sandy Liguori, who owns Woodchester Nissan and Woodchester Collision in Mississauga. Liguori, who is a former president of the Trillium Automobile Dealers Association and former president of the Canadian International AutoShow, agreed to meet Dukach.

During their conversation, Liguori told Dukach that he had come to Canada more than 50 years ago when his own father decided to leave Italy for a better life. As an immigrant, he knew the challenges that a newcomer to the country faced.

“It’s almost like it was my duty to help,” Liguori said. “The thing that impressed me the most about him was exactly what we had when we came here: the enthusiasm of being in a new land where there were opportunities for the family to get better. That’s the thing that drew me to him. That he was looking for a better life for his family.”

Liguori set up a meeting with his nephew, who runs the collision centre, and they hired Dukach to start working in the parts department with plans to have him learn more about the business. “I’m thankful to the Liguori family,” Dukach said. “I don’t know what I’d do without them. I love this place and it has opportunities.”

Now settled in their new home, he and his family have visited some popular tourist attractions such as Niagara Falls and Toronto City Hall. He said if someone had told him six months ago that he’d be living and working in Canada, he would have told them they were crazy.

“I just look back and can’t believe how it happened,” he said. “My life has changed upside down, absolutely, but it was a very big lesson for all my family. I think every father should do something for their kids.

“Right now, I understand I am lucky to be here and I am doing the best for my kids. They can live safely and have a better life here and a good education.”

Read More: A Ukrainian refugee finds a new life in the GTA with the help of the local auto industry

2022-11-05 07:01:28

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