'We appreciate every kind word': Community BBQ held to welcome Ukrainian refugees

As Ukrainians continue to flee their war-torn country, many who have already left, have found asylum in Canada.

"I was in Ukraine when the war started," said Valeriia Yelshynova, a refugee.

Yelshynova lived in Brovary, Ukraine, just outside Kyiv, when Russia launched wide-ranging attacks on February 24th.

"I had to go to work that day," she said.

Instead of work, Yelshynova eventually made her way to a bomb shelter in the country's capital.

"It was uncomfortable because you have no pillows there, you have no normal mattress, you're just sleeping on the boxes," she said. "We could (have) gone outside, but it was pretty dangerous because we knew Russian troops were right close to our city."

Yelshynova is now in Calgary, living with her aunt and cousin. She travelled alone to several other countries before making it to Canada.

"I travelled to Chernivtsi, in West Ukraine," she said. "I stayed there for a while, and then I crossed the border in Romania, travelled to Italy, and from Italy to Frankfurt, and then Calgary."

On Sunday, hundreds gathered at Bowness Park for a community barbeque, to welcome Ukrainians refugees to the city.

"To (help) integrate into Canadian society, (to) feel like part of the society, to be a part of a bigger group," said Roman Vlagynskyi, who helped organize the picnic-style event.

Several local organizations were also there to provide information about resources and support, including employment advice.

"So that includes everything like basic needs, like housing support, food security, so gift cards for grocery stores," said Anila Lee Yuen, president and chief executive officer of Centre for Newcomers. "It includes helping to get children into schools, and get them registered."

Lee Yuen says the demand for help won't slow down anytime soon.

"We've probably served closer to 300 Ukrainian individuals," she said. "They may all be representing families or may be individuals on their own, but we are still expecting within the thousands."

For those who have received any assistance, they say a little goes a long way.

"We appreciate every dollar, we appreciate every kind word, we appreciate any piece of food, any clothes the world will give us," Yelshynova said.