Meet Olena: A Compassionate Interpreter for Ukrainian Newcomers in Calgary

When Olena moved from Ukraine to Canada six years ago, the shy Kherson native never imagined she would one day be working as an interpreter in Calgary.  

But the war in Ukraine changed everything. 

Despite believing she may not have what it takes to do the job, she opted to get certified as a professional interpreter because she liked the idea of helping other newcomers to Calgary. 

“When the war broke out in Ukraine, I realized I needed to help my country, and my people, and I decided to start working as an interpreter,” she says.  

In May 2022, Olena started working with the Gateway team at Immigrant Services Calgary, providing interpretation support for first-language services to Ukrainian evacuees. Five days a week, Olena helps Gateway Newcomers Planners by attending individual appointments and helping clients understand the support available to them. Whether it’s the required documentation for a SIN or health care card, government benefits, access to language assessments and classes, employment opportunities, or school enrolment, Olena ensures clients are aware of and connected to the resources they need to start their lives in Calgary. 

The experience has been both rewarding and heartbreaking. 

“I hear tragic stories, and I want to cry or support my client,” she says. “But I understand I need to be professional, as hard as it is sometimes. I like to help people, and for now, I feel that I need to help Ukrainians.” 

Since May 2022, Olena has supported 350 Ukrainian clients, ensuring they understand the resources available to help them as they settle in Calgary. From a shy newcomer to a hard-working, passionate interpreter, Olena has come a long way in her short time in Canada. And now, there’s no looking back. 

“The most rewarding part of my work is to translate information and help newcomers feel they are at home. I cannot say it’s just a job for me—I can say it’s my life.” 

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