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Vancouver CEO offers home to young Ukrainian couple and their baby

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As he waited at Vancouver International Airport to meet the Ukrainian couple who would be living in the cottage on his West Vancouver property, Danny Sitnam was anxious, but excited.

“Just feeling a lot of emotion about wanting to help and support the family that’s coming to Canada,” he said.

The Helijet president and CEO has no connection to Ukraine or the couple he’s offered to help. But when the war displaced millions of people, Sitnam felt compelled to do something. A church put him in touch with a local Ukrainian settlement organization, and he offered up the cottage for newcomers in need.

Maple Hope Foundation co-founder Svitlana Kominko called Sitnam on the weekend and told him a young couple with a 10-month-old baby would be arriving soon, and they all agreed the cottage would be a good fit.

“For this family, it will be a very peaceful place where they can heal and start to integrate to Canadian life,” said Kominko.

After three hours in Canadian customs, Andriy and Olha Krupnyk and their young son finally walked into international arrivals to meet the woman who helped get them to Canada, and the man who’s offered them a place to stay.

“It was unexpected that a person which I had met at the airport for the first time is going to give us accommodation,” said Andriy, who was an actor in Ukraine.

His wife Olha is a doctor, who was overcome with emotion at the kindness that’s being shown to them in Canada. “All people try to help you,” she said through tears. “They understand only our face.”

The Krupnyks are grateful they have somewhere to live as they navigate their new life in Metro Vancouver. Thousands more displaced Ukrainians are expected to arrive in B.C. over the coming weeks, and housing is the biggest obstacle.

“We cannot meet the needs of everyone who needs our help. That’s why this is our call for support to all Canadians and to the government as well,” said Kominko.

“I’m hoping what we do, other Canadians will start looking at doing it as well,” added Sitnam of his offer of lodging for Ukrainian newcomers.

As she left the airport with the new arrivals, Kominko, who came to Canada from Ukraine 17 years ago, spoke of her hopes for the Krupnyks.

“That the hope that they instilled in their hearts when they decided to come to Canadian will just grow – that more opportunities will be open to them, that their son will grown up in a safe environment, that they will meet new friends,” she said. “And that they will feel at home, like I do.”

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