Ukrainian refugee using social media to help others overcome struggles of leaving homeland, adapt to new country
Posted February 10, 2024 3:32 pm.
Last Updated February 11, 2024 10:36 am.
An Instagram influencer who came to Winnipeg with her family as refugees from Ukraine is sharing her experience of adapting to a new country, in hopes her story can help support others.
Tetiana Kucherenko came to Canada in October 2022 with her husband Dmytro and their young child, who’s now in kindergarten. They live in the Winnipeg South area.
With Dmytro acting as a translator, Tetiana told CityNews the first six months after arriving in Winnipeg were the hardest, as the family had no means of outside support. Tetiana, who’s still learning how to speak English, says she felt unfit to live in Canada.
“When she comes here, it was very difficult,” said Dmytro, translating for his wife. “She’s fitted to live back in Ukraine. She (misses it) because all her life we’ve been there. It was really difficult to get the offer and come here. She would like to (go back to Ukraine) because she doesn’t feel like she is at home.
“She feels alone, like inside of herself. She started using the Instagram to introduce herself and try to speak with other people, and (find others with the) same soul here in Canada. We have plenty of people back in Ukraine, and she misses that. And we are just alone here.”
Before the war broke out in Ukraine, Tetiana – who has a degree in logistics and a Master’s of psychology – was on the verge of practising psychology. Instead, she found herself depressed and cut off from the only life she’s ever known.
“She would like to be a doctor back in Ukraine and help the people with mental health and solve some problems,” Dmytro said. “But we have a war and we need to move somewhere.
“For my side, I can speak English and it’s not a big deal for me but I can understood that she will be alone. She can’t speak English very well in the beginning and we need to get some work and it was really hard to get a good work because she has no English. Without English we cannot go for normal job with normal payment.”
The first six months were difficult for the Kucherenkos because their family is in Ukraine and they were receiving news of deaths and the destruction of their home. They found support from neighbours in Wininpeg, who help them navigate life in Canada.
Tetiana then decided to share her experience on social media, to show other refugees and newcomers to Canada they weren’t alone in their struggles.
WATCH: Dmytro and Tetiana Kucherenko offer advice to newcomers in Canada
In a post to her more than 1,000 followers last month, Tetiana outlined some of her top tips for adapting psychologically to a new country. Those included setting realistic expectations, learning the language, asking questions, being patient, seeking support and asking for help from specialists.
“She also would like to extend and improve her skill and give some support for the people who need it because we know plenty of people need mental health because… it’s really hard and really difficult to be here alone,” Dmytro said. “She tried to do this and explain to people that they are not alone. They can text, call, speak and we will help them.”
In Ukraine, Dmytro was primarily working as a merchant marine. Upon arriving in Winnipeg, he also worked in construction and delivery before landing a job as a fibre technician with a telecommunications company.
But he always dreamed of being a photographer. After getting help from his brother to purchase a professional camera, he began helping Tetiana with her social media as he tries to build his portfolio and break into the Canadian industry.
“In English Garden, we go to St. Vital Park, go to Assiniboine Park,” said Dmytro, who feels the skills he’s gained in Ukraine as a photographer aren’t translating well to Canada. “Also we do some shoot in Kildonan Park but it’s too far. We have beautiful things in 10 minutes drive from our place. I can say that all Winnipeg is beautiful.”
Dmytro bought Tetiana a new camera and stand so she could start filming by herself, though they often work together.
“My wife she’s give me support like, ‘OK you can see this one. Let’s do this one, this light is nothing. Give this, come here, do it from this side.’”
WATCH: Dmytro Kucherenko’s story of getting his first professional camera
The couple says Canada is a safe space where people can still hold onto Ukrainian culture as they begin a new chapter of their life.
“All newcomers who come here, they feel the same things,” Dmytro said, translating for Tetiana. “For this purpose she started using Instagram to show that it’s nothing bad (in Canada). You can do everything you do at home but you can do better because you come here and this country gives you many opportunities but you need hard work for it. After, you will get everything.”