By Eugene Hrushowy
Special to the Record
The Malysh family, Orest and Mariia, were married in 2015.
They lived in western Ukraine near Poland, in a region called Ivano-Frankivsk.
Orest is 36; his wife Mariia is 37. They have two children, Davyd (7 years old) and Emmanuela (4).
Their home city Kolomiyja, is near the Carpathian Mountains. They lived in the countryside near a river alongside a forest. Orest is a psychologist. He had a thriving private counselling practice, which went online during COVID. Mariia is an English teacher but since the arrival of their children is a stay-at-home mom. In Ukraine, the family spent a lot of time together hiking and travelling around the region. Their big vegetable garden with many fruit trees fed the family. Life was good; then everything started to change.
On Sept. 15, 2021, Mariia had a tragic accident. While hiking in the mountains in Ukraine with their children and some friends, their warming idyllic evening campfire exploded. Under the campfire, buried from sight, was an undetonated Second World War bomb. Three young girls and Mariia were seriously injured. Two boys died. Orest and the children were unhurt, at least physically. Mariia lost her right eye, and her left hand no longer works properly. Mariia has had to spend a lot of time away from her children in the hospital. This was the second but silent consequence of the bomb.
Mariia says that thousands of people, right now in Ukraine, are in the same situation. Instead of the heat from a campfire, igniting a Second World War bomb, since February 2022, Russian bombs have been injuring and killing innocent people. Davyd and Emmanuela, after a year of hearing about and seeing the horrors of war, began imagining that the same thing that had happened to their mom, that night around the campfire, could happen to their dad due to the war. That was the reason Mariia and Orest decided to move away from the physical and psychological scarring effects of the war. They arrived in Canada on April 11, 2023.
This is where hope, that silent uncommon bed-partner, enters the picture. Mariia knew just one foreign language, English. Therefore, the choice about where to find peace wasn’t a big one. Good friends had already moved to Canada to the Comox Valley. The most difficult part of their decision was the realization that they had to leave all that made them happy and content in their homeland. They would join their friends but everything else was unknown to them – where they would find a roof over their heads; how would they feed themselves; how would they survive when they had nothing except their luggage and each other? Mariia and Orest’s faith in God assured them that being safe together was their primary focus. They exercised their hope and trusted.
The kindness of Canadians surprised them and still does. Everyone they met wanted to help. And the beauty of the North Island took their breath away. For the first few weeks, they thought they were living in a dream. Frank De Carlo hosted them in his home for the first three months. He was like a grandfather to them. His caring helped them to overcome any and all of their challenges coming to their new home. He answered all their questions, including how to set up a Canadian bank account, how to shop for food, how to secure a Canadian driver’s licence, and how to access medical attention for Mariia, which has been ongoing.
In October, Mariia will receive an eye implant, courtesy of the Government of Canada*. She wants to thank everyone who made this possible.
Oksana Moiseeva, the Comox Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society’s Ukrainian integration co-ordinator, has been instrumental in helping the Malyshes settle in the Comox Valley. Oksana, being a newcomer herself with two young daughters, does everything possible and sometimes the impossible so that newcomers from Ukraine have all that they need to feel secure.
The Malyshes have now moved to their first rental home near Seal Bay Park. They live with another newly arrived Ukrainian family. With six kids between the two families, every day is an adventure. Once again, North Island residents stepped up, offering donations of furniture, bedding, linens, cookware, etc. Every part of the house reminds them of the generosity of people. The outpouring of giving has reassured them that their hope has been well placed. Orest and Mariia wake up each morning feeling blessed and grateful.
The Malyshes hope that the war will end soon and they will be able to go back to their lives in Ukraine. In the meantime, they are living as fully as possible in their new their lives. Orest has found a job in construction which pays the rent and puts food on the table. Their eldest, Davyd, starts school in the fall. They are enjoying summer near the ocean and thankful for every peaceful day here in the North Island.
Ukrainian newcomers in the North Island still need the generous assistance from the community. To that end, two fundraising concerts, Still Standing With Ukraine, have been scheduled for the Comox Valley on Sept. 21 at the Sid Williams Theatre and in Campbell River on Sept. 23 at the Tidemark Theatre. The Comox Valley Ukrainian Cultural Society has partnered with the Ukraine Nightingale Project to feature the Calgary-based Tryzub Ukrainian Dance Troupe. For more information and for tickets information to attend an evening of high energy-talented entertainment, please go to:
*Editor’s note: The eye implant falls under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUERT). The CUAET is for Ukrainians and their family members who want to come to Canada temporarily due to the crisis resulting from President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and then return home when it is safe to do so. It is not a refugee immigration stream.
Normally, visitors to Canada aren’t covered under public health care. However, anyone in Canada under the CUAET, may be able to get public health care depending on which province or territory they are living in.