It began with a Facebook post. Regina Akhankina called out for donations to help incoming refugees fleeing from war-torn Ukraine. As the photographer searched for clothing and bedding, she soon connected with Yuliya Kozachok.
A friendship began between the two, bonded by their desire to help fleeing refugees. It was there they also discovered more about each other. Akhankina is Russian and Kozachok is Ukrainian.
“Yuliya I think started everything. I was helping her to find clothes in my neighbourhood and putting some posts on Facebook, then I think we started doing more and more and just talking more,” said Akhankina
Since the war began, the two say they’ve managed to help at least a dozen people get the supplies they need. As immigrants themselves, the response from the community has been big which they say is reassuring.
“I came here with two bags just like everybody else because that’s what you could do, but the difference is that I packed my two bags. These people had to flee,” said Kozachok.
Though the response has been strong, they’ve run into a problem. Donations continue to come in, but they can’t deliver them to those in need fast enough. The two say they need a space to store their donations. Kozachok’s apartment is full of supplies and Akhankina is getting close to capacity.
“My apartment is full, my storage is full, my living room is full, my hallway is full. It’s just pretty full,” said Kozachok.
Having a space where incoming refugees could shop for supplies themselves would be crucial, according to the women. The two say many are not comfortable asking for help.
“A lot of them are not in a place where they want to ask for help. They’re traumatized, they’re shy, their life is ruined so we want to help them as much as we can,” said Kozachok.
Akhankina has kept in touch with friends and family across Canada and has learned of similar spaces in Montreal, Toronto, and Saskatoon. Bringing a location to Victoria would make the experience easier for refugees.
“Even a smaller room, or basement, or some sort of storage where we could put shelves in and get everything sorted out. For now, everything is a little chaotic and a little bit messy,” said Akhankina.
The two are hoping to find an appropriate space soon that they can use for at least six months. Donations are still being accepted and they’re in need of jackets, rain jackets, comfortable shoes, bedding, and children’s clothing.
To get into contact with Regina, you can email her at [email protected].