Olha Hoshlia and Nazar Khortiuk decided they wanted to immigrate to Canada a few years ago. The war made the final choice for them.
Ukrainians Olha Hoshlia and Nazar Khortiuk began their honeymoon as newlyweds. They ended it as refugees.
The couple got married on February 8 and spent their honeymoon in Sri Lanka. They were in Dubai and on their way home to Irpin, a small town just outside Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on February 24 – the day Russia launched its invasion.
“We were to fly back to Ukraine at 2 in the afternoon and at 5 in the morning we see the news that the war had started in our country and our flight was canceled,” Hoshlia said in a Telegram video call from Germany where the couple is stranded .
“Even now, we can not believe it is true,” Khortiuk added. “In our time, war in Europe was incredible.”
On Wednesday, the couple should have taken biometrics at the Canadian consulate in Düsseldorf, and they hope to get Canadian visas approved in a few weeks. If all goes well, they will be in Ottawa in mid-April, moving in with their Canadian hosts, Rachel Horsley and Stephen Mason, who signed up online to help refugees through the Ukraine Take Shelter website.
“I grew up in North Bay across the street from an air raid siren,” Horsley said. “All of this has aroused my Cold War anxiety as in the 70s and 80s we all thought we were a false step away from a global catastrophe.
“When the conflict started, we were quick to make donations. But it felt like it was not enough. It’s like no one can do enough. We saw total destruction happen again. “
With no way home to Ukraine, Hoshlia and Khortiuk took the road from Dubai to Germany to stay with relatives. They are now with a family in Hanover – friends of friends of friends – who opened their homes to refugees.
Hoshlia is the office manager and Khortiuk is the architect and interior designer. They decided they wanted to immigrate to Canada a few years ago and started studying English. The war made the final choice for them.
“Before this invasion, I thought it would be very easy for us to immigrate to another country, not to see family, because we have Telegram and we could come back to visit when we have vacation,” Hoshlia said.
“But now, with this situation, it’s not as easy as I thought. I saw my mother two months ago, and now I do not know when I will see her again.”
They care about the family who are still in Ukraine. Khortiuk’s father works for military intelligence in Kiev.
“He said it’s stable, but he does not get much sleep – maybe two hours a night,” Khortiuk said.
Khortiuk’s mother and godmother are safe in Germany, but the godmother barely reached out of her home in Hostomel City, north of Kiev. She spent three weeks in an underground shelter.
“There is almost no one from our army there, only Russians,” Khortiuk said. “She said there are shootings and rockets every minute. Almost the whole town is destroyed. Every house is destroyed. They had no water, no electricity and very little food.”
Eventually, the Ukrainian army managed to evacuate them to the relative security in Kiev.
“She said a lot of people are dying and that they are just lying on the ground,” Khortiuk said. “The Russian army is shooting down peaceful citizens. They do not know why. They’re just shooting them. “
Hoshlia’s mother and little sister in Kiev also had a shocking escape. After weeks in a shelter, the Russians agreed to let some civilians leave the city by train.
The darkened train left the station and drove slowly west in the dark, but came under Russian rocket attack.
“My mother was very scared,” Hoshlia said. “She told me she often thought, ‘This is the end.'”
Hoshlia’s family is now in western Ukraine, away from the fighting, but says they will never leave Ukraine.
“She says she’s too old to change country,” Hoshlia said.
Horsley and Mason are preparing for the arrival of the newlyweds. Neighbors in Queensway Terrace North have donated a queen-size bed, dresser and side table for use in Horsley’s home and where they will find their own accommodation later. The couple has no warm clothes – Hoshlia is extra small and Khortiuk is extra large – and Horsley also hopes to find a woman’s small bike for Hoshlia. She has received offers of help finding both Hoshlia and Khortiuk jobs in their field.
“They’re young and they’re energetic and they want to get started right away,” Horsley said.
“I know they will be crushed and happy at the same time. It’s the true bittersweet feeling of starting a new life while their loved ones continue to face destruction.”
The couple says they are eager to start a new life in Canada.
“Before I met Nazar, I wanted to go to the United States,” Hoshlia said. “But as I got older, I thought the United States is a little dangerous in the future for my children’s future. When I met Nazar, we thought of Canada because there’s a big Ukrainian diaspora in Canada, and it’s very safe. And there is beautiful nature.
“We know we will not see our families for a long time, but we decided that we must try. And if it is not good, and if we miss our country, we will return. But we have to try. “