We interviewed Petro Panin about his ordeal in Europe and what he and his family had to endure before arriving in Winnipeg as a Ukrainian newcomer. Here is what he told us:
“I am Petro Panin, and I am from Odessa, Ukraine. I arrived with my family in Winnipeg on July 6, 2022.
As soon as we heard bomb explosions in our city on February 24th, 2022, we started getting ready to leave Ukraine to save our family. Two days later, we got into our car and crossed the border with Moldova, leaving our home and packing only necessity items in our car’s trunk. It was only the beginning of a long trip for my wife, my 20-year-old son, my 17-year-old daughter, my 79-year-old mother and myself.
When we were leaving our country, we didn’t clearly understand where we would stay or how long the crisis would last. We spent a few days in Moldova, then crossed Hungary to end up in Romania, where we remained for some time. We then went to Slovakia and finally arrived in Poland.
We stayed over a month in Poland, where we had the opportunity to apply to the CUAET Program. We knew then that Canada would be our final destination. However, we had to go to Germany for testing first. After three months, we had the documentation necessary to begin our last trip fleeing the war.
Many people kept asking why we wouldn’t stay in Germany with all those benefits available to Ukrainians. We would have received assistance for living expenses, including rent, food, and more. Nevertheless, our goal was not to stay where everything was given but rather go somewhere where we could contribute. We wanted to become a valuable part of another country and be with very friendly peopled whose culture would be most close to the Ukrainian one.
Manitoba became our choice. We got to the Ukrainian Refugee Reception Centre at the Best Western Plus Hotel the day we arrived in Winnipeg. We were welcomed, oriented, and helped by numerous organizations and volunteers. During our first days in the city, we noticed that cars had license plates saying, “Friendly Manitoba.” We understood we were in the right place!
During our journey through all those countries, many people helped and welcomed us. Therefore, today we wish to give back by assisting other Ukrainian refugees like us.
I am grateful for my education because I can use to help others in situations like ours. I graduated from Odessa State University in 2000. I have a Master’s Degree in teaching English. For 18 years, I used to work in a US charity organization helping thousands of Ukrainian orphans get their education and start a new life. During the past five years, I have been self-employed, helping hundreds of entrepreneurs, businesspeople and topnotch professionals improve their English skills. I also worked as an interpreter for several companies wanting to be better connected internationally. Today, I continue to teach online, and so does my wife.
Our son now works full-time, and our daughter is a 12th grader. She also started a part-time job which was one of her dreams. My mom is staying home and now starts practicing her English.
We were so fortunate that soon after our arrival in Winnipeg, my wife and I were welcomed by the most cheerful and friendly CEO, Jorge Fernandez, and his incredible team! We were hired by the Immigrant Centre to do exactly what we wanted to do: be helpful to other Ukrainian newcomers fleeing the war.
Being an English instructor for hundreds of Ukrainian newcomers at the Immigrant Centre makes me happy as learning the basics helps them find jobs as soon as possible. By sharing my skills with them I feel confident that new Ukrainian arrivals will eventually contribute to Canada’s prosperity as they enter the labor market.
I believe that I owe my success as a teacher to my personal approach: I allow my students to make as many mistakes in the beginning as they need so that “practice will make perfect” in the future. When people are not judged, they are not afraid to go ahead and speak the language being learned. Getting rid of psychological barriers helps people achieve incredible results sooner than they may ever expect. Assisting people to see priorities and understanding that they don’t need to know “all English words and grammar in the world” to speak fluent English gives them hope. Personalizing materials helps everyone enjoy the process, forgetting that they are learning. Using the language right away in different situations while living here in Canada helps them see that English is a tool for achieving bigger goals and that acquiring the language is not unreachable.
Today, my main goal is to continue providing my students the necessary tools, methods, and systems to improve their English on their own, always expective that they will achieve a good level to have an enjoyable life in Canada.”
We take this opportunity to thank Petro for his wonderful work with Ukrainian newcomers and hope that we can continue this wonderful language program so necessary today.