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From Western Ukraine to Western Canada

After their long journey the family was welcomed into the community of Sylvan Lake on April 4
The Kobaka family arrived in Sylvan Lake from the Ukraine on April 4. From the left Mark Kobaka, Ivan Kobaka, Timofii Kobaka, Davyd Kobaka and Anastasia Kobaka. (Sarah Baker/Sylvan Lake News photo)

A new family from Ukraine was welcomed to Sylvan Lake, April 4.

For the family, the journey from Ukraine has been a challenging one, Ivan and Anastasia Kobaka said, speaking through local interpreter Ilya Dourmanov.

“It has been a long journey from Ukraine to Hungary to Canada with little kids and 37 hours in travel time. The first place we landed in Canada was in Toronto and we stayed in a hotel for a few hours and the next day we flew from Toronto to Calgary… where we were met by Onsy (Tawadrous) and another Ukrainian family.”

The Kobakas told Sylvan Lake News where they were from in Ukraine was safer compared to other parts of the country.

“Of all the Ukrainian cities, Western Ukraine has been the safest because none of the cities there have been bombed due to the proximity of the border. Since Western Ukraine hasn’t been subject to the invasion as Central and Eastern Ukraine have been, many Ukrainians who left their homes moved through the Western Ukraine including our hometown either to stay or just to transit to Poland and other countries.”

Ivan, Anastasia and their three sons find Sylvan Lake very different.

“With geography (and) demographics the town of Sylvan Lake is very small compared to what we are used to. It’s colder and the people seem to be very different.”

Since arriving in Canada every day has felt like Easter, Kobaka said.

“Ukrainians are fatigued since the war has been going on for a year and a half so naturally everyone is just tired.

“Coming from the circumstances we were in, we feel like celebrating daily. Our lives have been serving as a ministry to us and being able to come here feels like a divine provision because the desire was there but it was not feasible to come. God opened doors for us to be able to relocate from a place that was unsafe to Sylvan Lake.”

Now settled in Sylvan Lake four goals have been on their minds and the family has been praying, thinking and reaching out to accomplish them.

“The biggest prayer item is finding a place that we can call our own home. The second thing is schooling for the children which our middle and youngest son have been able to go to Helping Hands for the first time for a couple of hours today. The third thing is transportation. And then last but not least is finding work in order to generate income to support the family.”

The family’s arrival wouldn’t have been possible without the touch ministry committee at the Alliance Community Church, Tawadrous said.

“Through touch ministry we paid for their tickets. Ivan and Anastasia didn’t know anybody, so I was the one who got to know them and introduce them when they were still in Ukraine. I presented their case through the touch ministry and they said yes, sure we’ll help them come to Sylvan Lake.”

People in the community have opened up their hearts to the family during this process, Tawadrous said.

“When they were coming there was a long process for the visa and we had a short time to prepare for their arrival and until they are able to rent a place the Bayduza’s have opened up their home. People in the community have opened up their hearts to them and everyone has been asking how they can help.”

Host family Rev. David Bayduza and his wife Tammy Bayduza didn’t know about the family’s arrival until the Friday prior when they received a call from Tawadrous, Bayduza told Sylvan Lake News.

“Love brought us to take in a family and the first time we met with the family was very overwhelming and emotional. Having them stay with us has been a learning experience where we have learned a lot about people, networking and personal feelings.”

For the family the sense of gratitude from the experience will never go away, said Kobaka.

“When you think about the journey of over 10,000 km, not having the resources to do it and having a young family with three kids, leaving everything behind to come here, not being able to speak the language or knowing where we were going to go has made an impact. God provided blessings through the family who welcomed us into their home and to that the sense of eternal gratitude will never go away.”

Sarah Baker

About the Author: Sarah Baker

I joined Black Press in March 2023 and am looking forward to sharing stories about the local communities.
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