Newly arrived Ukrainian family living and working near Tavistock


  • News   Thu, Jun 2nd, 2022   Gary West
The three children of Vlad and Natasha include two sons -Vania and Misha, and a daughter Ilona. They attend Sprucedale Public School in Shakespeare and enjoy the Danen backyard pool.


The three children of Vlad and Natasha include two sons -Vania and Misha, and a daughter Ilona. They attend Sprucedale Public School in Shakespeare and enjoy the Danen backyard pool.


By Gary West
There has been so much said in the past number of months about the horrible atrocities happening in Ukraine at the hands of Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Sometimes it’s hard to see something good coming out of something that bad - but this story is just that. It’s about a couple and their three children who escaped the carnage happening in Ukraine and now reside in South Easthope Township in Perth county, near Tavistock.
In a recent interview, the married couple, Vlad Khanyeyev and Natasha Liakh, feel they were not only lucky to escape the country they love, but also to find a dairy farm family like that of Ted and Diane Danen, who took their family in and made them feel more than welcome.
The young Ukrainian family arrived at Pearson airport in Toronto on May 8th, with only their possessions that could fit into a couple of suitcases. Their journey began from their home in Bila Tserkva, which translated means “White Church,” which is approximately 70 kilometers south of the capital Kyiv. For two weeks after the Russian invasion started, they and their three children lived in bunkers, ironically built in the Cold War by the Soviet Union (USSR). These bomb shelters were double-walled and are by far the safest place to be during the Russian assault. They slept on the cold, damp floor with one blanket, where the temperature was 10 degrees and hardly ever saw the light of day. Vlad stated that if combat fighter jets were on the attack, they had 15 minutes to get to shelter, but if the surface-to-air missiles were used, you had no time or warning before they struck.
We should mention that both Natasha and Vlad are licensed Veterinarians in Ukraine, and since they were parents of three young children under the age of 18, they were allowed to leave Ukraine and travel over the border into Poland.
When asked if they were surprised by the Russian attack, they said they weren’t. When they saw the embassies of many countries, including Canada and the U.S., move out of Ukraine to neighbouring areas, and the world bank heading to Vienna, Austria - they then knew the war was inevitable.
The family of five spent two months in Warsaw, Poland, before their departure to Canada. Many months before the war started, they had applied for visas to come to Canada and to work on the Danen dairy farm, where another young Ukrainian farm worker had come. This had obviously worked in their favour when it came to fleeing their home country. They agree that timing is everything sometimes.
Even though the couple are licensed veterinarians in Ukraine, they still will have to go through the process of obtaining their veterinarian licenses in Canada from the Canadian Vet association. That will require the writing of four separate examinations and could take more than two years to achieve. Vlad says he loves working with cows and in Ukraine, he was able to obtain his Ph.D. in Veterinarian surgery. He hopes to do the same in Canada once the required licenses are approved. Natasha will go through the same procedures to obtain her Canadian Vet certificate and then probably pursue a practice with small animals, which at present are very much in demand, according to local vet clinics.
The pair say that the human sacrifice in Ukraine has been unbearable to watch, but what we don’t see as much is the total annihilation of herds of cows and other livestock that die at the senseless acts of Russian bombing. Vlad talked of one herd of 1,000 milking cows who were left abandoned, and many died of mastitis due to the fact that they weren’t milked for over a month, and if not mastitis, they died of lack of feed and water. He said news reports told of the Russians stealing millions of dollars of farm machinery from Ukraine, all of which is true. Thousands of acres of farmland, which grew wheat and barley for export, and feed for animals, are now lying with bombing holes scattered throughout the fields, and pieces of mortar and missiles everywhere. There are also land mines planted by the Russians to contend with.
At the end of our conversation, the couple could not say enough about the generosity and kindness that was shown to their family by the Canadian people. Canadians have welcomed them with open arms and they would like to thank the many residents they have met and especially the Danen family for showing what generosity is all about.