The Shparhala Family

Olga Petriv (left) with Nataliya Shparhala and children, Victoria, Anastasia and Victor.

COSTI and the government of Canada have a long history of working together to support refugees from around the world. The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 created one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, and both the federal government and COSTI have been working together to support the many displaced, fleeing Ukrainians.

Among the millions who escaped the country to-date, is the Shparhala family of five. Parents Nataliya and husband Roman with their daughters, Anastasia and Victoria, and son Victor were all able to leave together and arrive in Canada. Greeted by our partner, the Red Cross at Pearson International this past summer, the Shparhalas secured immediate and temporary shelter, and were quickly connected with COSTI.

“At the moment, it was a big shock and we felt insecure about our future. With the language barrier and having no family here and knowing no one here, we were very worried,” shares Nataliya with the help of her translator and COSTI Settlement and Housing Counsellor, Olga Petriv.

“Our connection to Olga Petriv and COSTI, was a lifeline for our family,” says Nataliya. “She quickly worked to help us secure permanent housing and provided invaluable moral support throughout. Faced with a very different rental structure than we were used to in Ukraine, we were turned away again and again by landlords. With no Canadian experience or contacts and no credit history, landlords were not willing to provide us with long-term leases – we were becoming worried that we would not find a home, but Olga drove around making note of rental signs and advertising for leasing companies, and started calling people. After a few attempts, finally, one property manager agreed to provide us with a permanent housing agreement.”

While Nataliya and the family breathed a sigh of relief to have secured their first home in Canada, worries still weighed heavily on them. “We are so grateful of course, however, we had to deal with the next step of finding job,” she added. Olga offered support with everything from updating and translating Nataliya’s résumé and sharing job postings, to emailing Nataliya YouTube videos to help with interview tips and practising English. “We are giving people hope and a future here, a future that will enrich this country’s culture and economy,” she says.

Nataliya’s husband Roman was also concerned about employment opportunities and the transition his wife would have to make. Back home, she worked as a chemistry professor at a medical university, and of course, here in Canada she would have to adapt to new and different opportunities.

And adapt she did. After only a few short weeks in Canada, Nataliya found a job in housekeeping services with a major hotel chain. Another small piece of the puzzle towards a more stable life was in place. The children are also doing well. Olga sourced out various schools that could accommodate their ages and provided the family with several options. Today, Anastasia and Victor are attending Bishop Allen Academy Catholic Secondary School, and the youngest, Victoria is studying at Islington Junior Middle School. 

The Shparhala family is so thankful for the support and resources they’ve received. Initially distrustful of change and uneasy about the future, Nataliya and her family have gained a new perspective. “Today, I’m very optimistic and slowly building stability with time. We feel secure and have peace of mind not living in fear for our lives,” says Nataliya. “This organization – COSTI – saves lives, we will never forget them! COSTI is giving people hope and a future in Canada, a future that will enrich this country’s culture and economy.”