Refuge and Welcome in Smiths Falls for Ukraine

Smiths Falls Welcomes Ukraine
Left to Right: Beth Hill, Wendy Alford, Julia Hill, Chris Williamson, Mary Lynn Dales, Nathalie Desrosiers, Helen Petersen, Linda McKenna, Darlene Webber Crawford, Mark Czubak Photo credit: Smiths Falls Welcomes Ukraine -
Posted on: December 12, 2022

Mark Czubak knew if the Smiths Falls Welcomes Ukraine (SFWU) committee was going to work, the thinking behind it would have to be thorough, thoughtful and workable.

Now, early December 2022, there will be seven Ukrainian families living with host families in the surrounding community — that’s 22 people ranging from a 21-month old, to grandparents. Czubak explains “if there are three kids the dad can come. If there are two kids, the dad stays and fights.”

Committee member Linda Mckenna adds that two of the seven families were brought here privately but “they’re all under our umbrella.” And the final family is arriving December 8, a mom and son. 

They’ve traveled from a war-torn country and landed in a small community that has stepped up to make their first months and year here warm and productive, finding friends, building a home, learning a new language, giving perhaps a short sigh of relief.

“A lot’s happening now,” says Czubak. It’s taken from April to mid-November to pull things together, from finding host families, through checking and vetting them, to getting grants from the federal government. “It’s complicated,” he adds. It needed logistics to get done — and that’s where the committee comes in. Each committee member has a different skill. All those skills add up to a powerful force when it comes to meeting needs, doing  paper work, finding schools for kids, helping with a new language. All together, Czubak says, smiling, and tooting the committee’s horn a bit, “we’re a good package…we did an awesome job. We completely succeeded.”

Mckenna agrees. “Being able to help is special.”

Chris Williamson also agrees. He was angry and saddened, he says, when he first heard about the invasion. Realizing there was not much he could do thousands of miles away in Canada, he decided the committee would be a good way to extend some comfort, to bring some safety to families coming to a “relatively peaceful country.”

Mark Paine speaks up, too. He’s spent time in Ukraine, has seen the “terror,” understands their anxiety. “My heart bleeds for them.

“Thank God we have the committee and the people of Smiths Falls.”

So what’s next? Finding jobs to match their experience. 

Czubak says among the Ukrainians are IT people, IT and logistics people, instructors in physical fitness, an electrician, teachers…a wide range of expertise.

And some kids, he adds, have experience with soccer. “So where should they play?” he asks, putting it out there.

When families arrive they get immediate help, but sometimes it’s hard to know just what they need. Most of the host families were in touch with Ukrainian families beforehand and got to know each other a bit — “likes and dislikes.”

But, as Czubak says, you can’t outright ask their bank balance so you “have to pay attention.” Host families are observant, they use sensitivity and empathy to figure out wants and necessities. 

“Stuff trickles in,” he adds, and then grins — “…Ukrainian teenagers are getting popular in school and Smiths Falls kids want them as friends.”

As always, the Town has been quick to step up. There is money to help, if needed, as well as gift cards from many local businesses.

There are also people in the community who speak Ukrainian, and Ukrainians are “trying hard to learn English. Kids in school learn fast,” he adds. You can be sure of one thing, Czubak says decisively, “Ukrainians are darn proud.” He means they don’t want to take without giving back.

The SFWU committee set some goals for itself when it took on this venture: safety first, then systems in place to help the incoming families function, and finally to help find employment. Already some have jobs with bigger employers in town, and others, with help, are still looking.

“Once the children are settled and the paperwork is done, they all want to work,” Mckenna says. “They want to be independent.”

Watch out for these dates: December 19 is Ukrainian St. Nicholas day and “each kid will get a present,” Czubak says; January 7 is Ukrainian Christmas, and January 14 is a Ukrainian Free Skate with an afternoon of skating at the Memorial Community Centre in Smiths Falls. 

For more information go to the website; their email address is

Committee members are: Nathalie Desrosiers, Julia Hill, Beth Hill, Mary Lynn Dales, Chris Williamson, Darlene Webber Crawford, Linda Mckenna, Helen Petersen, Wendy Alford, Mark Paine, Shawn Pankow, and Mark Czubak.

Article by Sally Smith

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News