Government plane carrying Ukrainian refugees set to arrive in Montreal this weekend

A federal government chartered plane carrying Ukrainian refugees is expected to arrive in Montreal on Sunday as the community is ready with open arms.

Maria Samoilenko has been in Montreal for only three days and already wants to help others like her.

"Now, we're helping here to give back some help we received and that's really important," Samoilenko said.

It's small comfort for the Ukrainian refugee. She left her career and family behind like so many others.

Hoping to make starting a new life a little easier for newly-arrived refugees, Igor Ezril put out a call for donations.

Everything from household goods and clothing to children's toys filled the vacant commercial space of his Côte-des-Neiges building.

"In the beginning, the idea was to send it to Ukraine. But when we started to see a lot of people coming — most were women with kids — we decided to open a help centre here in Montreal," Ezril said.

It provides more than the necessities to those fleeing the war. Ezril also houses those in need and gives them the tools to start a new life.

"We are helping to find apartments, we're helping to find the job and helping to fill out the papers for medical, social security number," Ezril said.

For Samoilenko, it's a major relief.

"There are people who help you to do things, which may seem very simple and logic for you, but which are very strange for us," she said. "Like, we had no idea what social insurance numbers and why to get it. So that's like they do everything. And psychological support is important because people come from different places in Ukraine, sometimes they come with actually nothing."

Canada has welcomed more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugees since the beginning of the year. Now, the federal government is chartering flights from Europe to help bring some of the 112,000 successful visa applicants to Canada.

One flight arrived Monday in Winnipeg and another is expected in Montreal this weekend, with a third planned for Halifax next week.

It's a start for the Ukrainian Canadian community as they want more flights to evacuate those still in harm's way.

"The war is ongoing in Ukraine. The shelling of innocent civilians continues," said Michael Shwec, president of the Quebec chapter of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

For those fortunate to escape and who have lost so much, they are expressing immense gratitude.

"I would like to say thank you to people here because everyone we met here was really nice people," Samoilenko said. "Thanks to your country."

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