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Saskatoon bakery sees business rise after hiring newcomers from Ukraine

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A willingness to hire newcomers to Canada has brought new business to Nestor’s Bakery.

For 25-year-old Vlada Botomna, moving to Canada was a big adjustment but a necessary one.

Her English is limited, but she says she had to leave because of the Russian takeover of her city of Lysychansk in Eastern Ukraine. The city of about 100,000 is severely damaged she says.

Her parents are still in Ukraine but had to move from their home city. She misses them a lot.

“Yes, very much,” Botomna told CTV News. When asked if they are safe, she hesitates and answers “maybe,” while holding back tears. She says she does speak to her parents everyday.

She’s only been here a month, but quickly learned Nestor’s Bakery was hiring.

Oleg Kravesov who helped translate the interview with Botomna, has been here for five months and has good things to say about Saskatoon and colleagues at Nestor’s.

“It’s a very friendly community here. When I started the job Ukrainian women who worked here longer than me helped me,” Kravesov says.

He lives near the bakery and appreciates the chance to work with other Ukrainians, something Nestor’s owner Keith Jorgenson has been committed to since Ukrainians started arriving in Saskatoon last year.

“We hired one person from southern Ukraine then that lead to a couple from western Ukraine. We now have 13 Ukrainian nationals who work at the bakery,” he says.

With a labour shortage in the province, Jorgenson’s problems were solved thanks to the Ukrainian help.

“We did a large fundraiser selling 35,000 donuts in a couple weeks in the colour of the Ukrainian flag and our business and store has doubled since then,” he says.

Jorgenson has Ukrainian ancestry through his grandparents. He doesn’t speak Ukrainian, but says he’s learned the odd word. He enjoys seeing English staff using Ukrainian words, and vice-versa.

“Really pleased and kind of proud at how the dynamic has developed in the bakery. We have people who don’t speak any English and are tutored and translated by those who don’t and you’ll often see when they leave at the end of the day, give each other a hug,” he says.

Staff at Nestor’s generally make more than minimum wage, according to Jorgenson, who is committed to providing a living wage. He gets calls almost every day from Ukrainians looking for work.

Kravesov worked in Poland while waiting for his Canadian visa and says, he much prefers his job at the bakery.

“I worked in Poland for two months. It was very hard, 12 hours a day, five days a week. It was much harder than here and lower salary,” Kravesov says.

Botomna spoke mostly Russian, which is common in some parts of Ukraine, but now she is boycotting the Russian language, sticking to Ukrainian and of course English, which she is working hard to learn. 

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