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'Thank you very much': Ukrainian man with cerebral palsy grateful to be safe in Saskatoon

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Thanks to months of hard work securing his arrival, Mykola Kopchyk now calls Saskatoon home, and he said it’s because of generous people in Saskatoon.

 “Thank you, Mrs. Cathy, and Mr. Gordon and Victoriia. Thank you very much,” Mykola Kopchyk, said in an interview with CTV News.

He knows little English, but learned those words specifically to thank those who helped him get here and escape the dangers in Ukraine.

Those three people were instrumental in getting Kopchyk to safety in Saskatoon.

Victoriia Marko completed all the paperwork for Kopchyk, fearing for his safety because he lived on the third floor of an apartment building with his disabled mom in the city of Sambir. She worried that if shelling started in his city, he would be unable to get to a bomb shelter if need be.

She started the complicated process to get him to Saskatoon. The stumbling block was that accessible housing was required first. She was unsure if it would all happen in the time allotted before the immigration paperwork expired, but then something happened.

“We were watching the news one night, and we saw the story and thought we have a barrier free or wheelchair accessible building, so why not reach out,” Cathy Hirschfeld, owner of Refresh Inn and Suites told CTV News.

Cathy and Gordon Hirschfeld are both former nurses and now own Refresh Inn and Suites.

“We were searching for ways to help. I’ve watched the news regularly about what’s going on in Ukraine and feel awful about what’s going on there,” Gordon said.

(Photos courtesy Victoriia Marko)

After the story aired, and Marko got the call from the Hirschfelds, it was a huge relief that the next step of the long process could start to get her friend here.

“I felt so thankful to CTV News because through you we found Cathy and Gordon,” she says.

Kopchyk has cerebral palsy and less than 50 per cent vision. In his new suite on College Drive he’s had to make adjustments to get around. He has an extra mattress beside his bed so he can climb onto his bed because he prefers not to use his wheelchair while in his suite. He’s used to crawling, which is what he did in his apartment in Ukraine.

The Hirschfelds don’t speak Ukrainian, so they invested in a translator to help communicate with Kopchyk.

“This is just a small part of everything that’s been happening. People were bringing food before he arrived, stocking his fridge, and bringing clothes once he was here,” Cathy Hirschfeld said.

Arriving in Saskatchewan in winter meant those clothing donations included warm winter gear. The cold weather doesn’t phase Kopchyk though as he’s enjoying his new home.

Marko took him on a road trip to Humboldt, and he’s already gone tobogganing.

His intellect is sharp as is his sense of humour, according to Marko. He speaks three languages fluently and is determined to learn English as soon as possible.

He talks to his mom in Ukraine daily. He misses her, but because of her disability, there are no plans to bring her to Canada.

Kopchyk has shared with Marko that his mom has told him that this is the best for him, and while it’s difficult, he should look to the future and his new life here living in safety.

They said they heard this week that he will be moved to a more permanent location in a Ukrainian care facility at St. Joseph’s home where he can work to learn English and get accustomed to Saskatoon.

He said he has dreams of eventually living on his own.

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