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Sask. farmers help Ukrainian family put down roots

GLENAVON, Sask. — One Sask-atchewan farmer’s labour shortage opened doors to a brighter future for a Ukrainian immigrant and his young family.

This spring, Glenavon grain farmer Dave Iluk counted himself lucky for having had a dedicated hired man for nearly two decades, but that arrangement was coming to an end.

“(Tony Sebastian) was in his late 70s and still climbing up a bin,” said Iluk.

A valued worker, he worked long hours during seeding and harvest and remained on call in the off-season as needed.

“Tony was honestly doing it for fun,” said Dave’s wife, Karen.

To find a new worker, the Iluks turned to the International Labour Centre, which presented the couple with several resumes to choose from.

A Skype interview followed with the chosen candidate, Sergii Mashchenko.

The 31-year-old Ukrainian agricultural graduate was not a stranger to the international workplace, having worked in Denmark, Sweden and the U.S. as part of his plan to try to get to Canada.

In 2016, Mashchenko joined an agricultural exchange program to gain experience in North America. He had to leave his wife, Tetiana, and young daughter, Elizabeth, behind due to U.S. immigration rules.

After seven months in Williston, North Dakota, Mashchenko was ready to move.

“I didn’t want to live in the U.S. because of the immigration politics and the instability caused by Donald Trump,” he said.

He also saw more opportunities for his family in Canada.

This past May, the Mashchenko family arrived in Saskatoon, where Karen picked them up and drove them four hours to Glenavon to a house in town.

Dave’s grandfather, a Ukrainian immigrant, had followed a path like the oneMashchenko was now on.

However, Dave said that in his grandfather’s case, he came to Canada without his wife and daughter and worked on a farm for two years before he could bring his family to Canada.

The Iluks, who have three daughters of their own, said they felt both a business and moral obligation to bring Mashchenko to Canada with his family and to help them establish roots here, the way Dave’s ancestors had.

Mashchenko said even though he left friends, family and most of his belongings behind in the Ukraine, he couldn’t be happier to be in a new country with his wife and daughter.

He said the political and economic instability in the Ukraine left him feeling scared for his own security and the security of his family.

“In the Ukraine, you just don’t know if one day you’ll come to work and your company will be crushed or gone because of some new laws, or maybe you don’t pay money and you could go to prison,” saidMashchenko, adding that the threat of a Russian invasion and the outbreak of war are constant worries.

“Here I know I work on Dave’s farm and I’m sure that I will have work tomorrow,” said Mashchenko.

“I’m happy.… I know Canada gives a chance to everybody who comes here and I know my family will have a better chance to live and grow.”

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