How Newcomers to Afghanistan, Ukraine Deal with Moving to Canada

Some Afghans and Ukrainians new to Canada say that although they are grappling with different challenges in their new country, they now feel safe and live in peace.

As of August 2021, more than 26,000 Afghans have moved to Canada since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The Canadian government has said it will fulfill its pledge to bring at least 40,000 Afghan refugees into the country by the end of 2023.

The number of refugees from Ukraine fleeing the war against Russia in the past nine months is much higher. Since February, more than 128,000 Ukrainians have moved to Canada, according to government data.

Several Afghan and Ukrainian refugees shared their personal experiences moving to Canada and adjusting to life in a new country with

Maryam Khurami, an Afghan mother who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, told “I never thought that one day I would come to Canada and leave my country. .

Once a popular TV presenter in Afghanistan, she arrived in Canada in May with her son and husband, without knowing anyone here.

“I felt extremely lonely for weeks and even months before getting to know my surroundings and make friends,” she says, recalling her first memories after arriving in Canada.

Maryam Khurami holds her son Esa. (Provided)

Many newcomers experience a number of challenges and culture shock during their first few months in Canada. For Abdullo Sheralizoda, a 24-year-old Ukrainian refugee, learning English is already a big challenge, but dealing with the uncertainty of being a temporary resident is an even bigger challenge.

The Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Authorization Program allows Ukrainian citizens fleeing war with Russia to stay here for up to three years. Sheralizoda expressed a desire to stay in Canada.

Along with his mother and five siblings, he left their home in Ukraine when war broke out in February. Now, he takes care of the family and oversees everything since his father is not with them.

Sheralizoda told “My father stayed in Ukraine, because most men of combat age were not allowed to leave Ukraine, and placed a great responsibility on my shoulders.

After settling in Regina, he enrolled all of his siblings in English classes as they tried to adapt to a new society with cultural, linguistic and religious differences. .

“It is very difficult for me to communicate with people and find a good job here if I cannot speak English,” he said.

Although Sheralizoda and his family have been going through a difficult time, they are glad that at least they are safe and that they are getting ready for Christmas.

Abdullo Sheralizoda (second from right) poses for a photo during English class. (Provided)

But Christmas is a whole new phenomenon for Farhad Stanikzai and his children as an Afghan and Muslim family. When asked about his thoughts on Christmas, the answer was unexpected.

“I don’t know,” he told

But Farhad’s 12-year-old son, Abdul Baset, heard a bit about Christmas from the new friends he made in Regina a month after arriving.

“I see lights and Christmas trees everywhere and it reminds me of Nowruz (Persian New Year),” Baset said while staring at the Christmas decorations hanging from a cafe window. get high.

Baset, his sister and two brothers are waiting to be admitted as they have been away from the classroom for more than a year.

Back in Afghanistan, Farhad is an army officer and says he has worked with Canadian soldiers for more than five years. He is part of a group that works in Helmand and Nangarhar provinces to help international forces.

When Kabul fell to the Taliban, Farhad desperately found his way out of Afghanistan. He fled to Pakistan, and after being there for more than four months, he finally arrived in Canada a month ago.

“I find Canada to be one of the best countries in the world for freedom. I have my own beliefs and my neighbor has his own, I organize my own festival and others do theirs. I really love Canada’s diversity and respect.”

Back in their home in Nangarhar, east of Kabul, the Farhad family often visits relatives to celebrate Eid and Nowruz together, but here the family is living in a two-bedroom apartment with few friends and family. relatives around.

“What I miss the most is going to relatives and receiving Edi (gifts) from the elders,” says Baset.

Reporting for this story was paid for through the Meta-sponsored Afghan Journalists in Residence Project.


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