In an old ramshackle East Sooke resort left dormant for decades, plans to provide refuge to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war are being made.
“These people are me. They’re exactly like me. Their only crime as far as I’m concerned is that they want to be more like us, they want to be more like a western country, and Putin doesn’t like that,” said Brian Holowaychuk, who owns the secluded 33-hectare property, which is home to the 1960s Grouse Nest resort, with his wife, Sharon.
Brian is of Ukrainian descent, his grandparents came to Canada as babies. He and his wife Sharon had plans to build an art studio and event space on the water’s edge, but then, Russia invaded Ukraine.
“I just felt like I had to do something. Putin is crazy. And it’s time here for us to stand up and be counted,” said Brian.
So the Holowaychuk’s pivoted from demolition, and are now set on creating a safe haven for families fleeing war-torn Ukraine.
“I’m hoping we could house 100 people out here,” said Brian.
The couple, all too aware that once the refugees do arrive in Canada, their journey from the war is far from over.
“I think there will be a lot of trauma,” said Sharon. “I think there will be a lot of group therapy going on to really understand how it feels what it’s like to leave everything and flee for your life. I expect it’s going to be really really rough on them when they feel safe enough to start dealing with their issues.”
The Holowaychuks are working with the Ukrainian Canadian Cultural Society of Vancouver Island to set up ongoing support, and the municipality of Sooke to quickly get this largely forgotten building, up to code.
“The devil is in the details. That building has been sitting there for decades so we need the building updated to code,” said Al Beddows, a councillor for Sooke.
The Holowaychuks are making a callout to skilled tradespeople, able to volunteer their services to get the lodge habitable.
“I need skilled help. I need guys who really know what they’re doing to patch up the buildings we have,” said Brian. “I think we can create quite a community out here.”
People looking to help out can reach out through the project’s website here.