Victoria newlyweds offer Ukrainian refugees use of condo after getting married

Olha Balachii and her mother Ninel arrived in Victoria one month ago.

When a newlywed couple in Victoria were moving in together, they saw the soon-to-be empty condo as an opportunity to help out refugees from Ukraine.

Diane MacPherson and her new husband, Eugene Smith, met as neighbours living across the hall from each other.

Smith moved into MacPherson’s apartment after the wedding, and then they were told about a woman who needed a home for herself and her daughter.

Olha Balachii and her mother Ninel arrived in Victoria one month ago, and MacPherson and Smith offered the use of Smith’s condo.

They’re refugees of the war in Ukraine, their home is located 200 kilometres from Kviv.

“We are very happy because we in Victoria,” Olha said. “Both of us, happy. We meet in Victoria many people. Kind people, and who help us.”

Smith said they approached the Ukrainian Cultural Centre to see if they could help.

“We got back from Nova Scotia the first week of July, and Ninel and Olha arrived on the 23rd,” Smith said.

Much of their communication is via a translation app, but after just four weeks, and their English is improving every day with daily lessons.

Ninel’s found a part-time job at a hairdressing salon, and Olha would love to work with animals.

MacPherson said they feel the women are family.

“For a month, the joy we’ve gotten out of this, no comparison,” MacPherson said. “If you think they got something out of it, we’re the ones who are actually receiving this gift.”

For Olha and Ninel, the war is still fresh, but their new home is more than that.

“I feel safe here. I’m glad I met such wonderful people,” Olga said via a translation app. “We live next to them as a second family.”

The newlyweds said they are committed to sponsoring the Ukrainians for 90 days.

A rally is scheduled at the legislature on Wednesday at 5 p.m. to show support for Independence Day in Ukraine.

WATCH: Ukrainian Village opens creating supportive transitional housing for refugees

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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