Meet Hanna: Escaping the war in Ukraine to find community in Calgary

On May 9th, 2022, Hanna and her boyfriend Anton landed at the Calgary airport with only a backpack, a cell phone, and a cell phone charger.

When the war started, Hanna and her parents resided in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. As the Russian troops surrounded the city, Hanna’s family made the difficult decision to leave their home with a few belongings and join her cousins at their cabin in the countryside of Ukraine. Hanna recalls making one of the hardest decisions of her life: “To stay it wasn’t safe, to leave it wasn’t safe, they were shooting at civilian cars.”

When it became too dangerous in the countryside, Hanna and her family escaped to Poland. She reconnected with her boyfriend, Anton, and together they made the difficult decision to leave their families behind to start a new life. They chose Calgary for their new home—a city they knew nothing about except that it had big blue skies and lots of sunshine. They bought a one-way ticket, added a plea on a Facebook group with Calgarian families helping Ukrainians settle, and got on the flight to Canada.

 “It was madness, moving to a new country, with no work, no place to stay, no clothes, nothing,” Hanna says.

Luckily the St. Dennis family saw their Facebook plea and offered them a place to stay. Neither party knew anything about the other, but that’s what Hanna says is the Canadian kindness that she has received ever since moving to Calgary.

After a few weeks, Hanna and Anton were connected to Gateway at ISC. They met with a Gateway Newcomer Planner who put together a customized plan for their settlement journey. Through Gateway, Hanna was able to connect with Dress to Success where she received a new wardrobe, makeup, and everything she needed for a job interview. Thanks to Gateway and its 75 service provider partners, newcomers like Hanna are connected to services they need to settle in their new homes.

 “I felt lost, and my head was spinning,” Hanna recalls. “But our Gateway planner listened for hours, she put together a plan for me on where to get food and clothes and even asked about my future dreams.”

Just shy of a year, Hanna is now attending college to work on her language skills per her Gateway plan, and she is also the new Client Care Representative at ISC. Hanna has come full circle from being a client of Gateway to now being the face of client relations, where she is able to help others with similar settlement circumstances, bringing empathy and hope to other Gateway clients.

Hanna and Anton recently celebrated their one-year settlement anniversary in Canada. They came to Calgary with nothing but a back pack and feeling lost. They now have a family, careers, a place to live and a community of people who are helping them build a new life.

“I saw the war, I heard them, but now, I feel very safe with my mental health here, and I hope to connect with my parents soon,” says Hanna.

Hanna and Anton are now enjoying their new life in Canada, building memories with the people that helped them settle—and with the hope of creating their own little family one day.

Through Gateway, ISC is able to create a new beginning for newcomers like Hanna, offering hope and a brighter future.

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