Grand Manan Island, found some 27 nautical miles off the mainland of New Brunswick, saw its modest population grow by three Tuesday, as the remote community welcomed a family fleeing war-torn Ukraine.
“It’s great to welcome anyone to the island, this is just maybe a little more of a special case,” Mayor Bonnie Morse said.
The young Ukrainian couple and their three-year-old son arrived in New Brunswick Tuesday aboard a charter flight before boarding another plane directly to Grand Manan.
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Morse said it’s a day many Grand Mananers have been waiting for since March when the community collectively agreed to help however possible.
“People are really excited,” she said.
“The process of the red tape and getting their visas and everything — we’re not always the most patient people, so waiting for that process has had people a little impatient.”
The family will move into an apartment on a resident’s property, with the option to move into a larger home on the island offered by a family who summers on the island.
Morse says she hasn’t heard from any naysayers yet, with many folks chipping in cash, clothes and even offering a car when the newcomers are able to sort out their licence.
The small rural island is sure to be a big change for the family who come from Mariupol, Ukraine — a city with about 444,000 more people in it than the entirety of Grand Manan.
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“I mean, Grand Manan is a bit of a homogenous community. We don’t have a lot of diversity here,” said the mayor.
Morse says islanders will offer refuge to the family for now, understanding if they choose to relocate to a larger city down the road.
For now, everyone involved is just happy to see the weeks-long process pay off and are ready to roll out the welcome wagon.
“We’ll do everything we can to make them feel at home in the Maritimes,” Grand Mananer Judy Stone said.
“Then they will decide whether they want to stay on the island or just have fond memories of it.”
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Stone served as something of a figurehead in helping parties on either side of the journey navigate that red tape.
She moved to Grand Manan in 1998, from Toronto.
Coincidentally, she and her husband have experience working in refugee resettlement.
She’s now co-chair of the community’s committee to facilitate the fleeing family.
“What they’re bringing with them are two suitcases and a bag of toys they’ve accumulated for their little boy,” said Stone.
The family moving to the island was identified through an existing resident, Tanya Psaras, who’s spent some time working as a nurse in Ukraine.
She speaks the language, and will likely be very busy helping them settle for the next few days.
Stone said she’s also had a lot of experience teaching English as a second language to adults, ready to take on that task at the family’s own pace.
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