How Afghan, Ukrainian newcomers cope with move to Canada

How Afghan, Ukrainian newcomers cope with move to Canada

Some Afghan and Ukrainian newcomers to Canada say they now feel safe and live at peace, despite facing various challenges in their new country.

As of August 2021, more than 26,000 Afghans have relocated to Canada since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The Canadian government is sticking to its commitment to bring at least 40,000 Afghan refugees into the country by the end of 2023.

The number of refugees who have come from Ukraine to escape the war against Russia in the past nine months has been much higher. More than 128,000 Ukrainians have resettled in Canada since February, according to the government.

Several Afghan and Ukrainian refugees shared with their personal experiences of moving to Canada and adjusting to life in a new country.

“I never thought that one day I would come to Canada and leave my country,” Maryam Khurami, an Afghan mother who fled Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021, told

Once a well-known television presenter in Afghanistan, she arrived in Canada with her son and husband in May without knowing anyone here.

“I felt extremely alone for weeks and even months before I got to know the area and made friends,” she recalls of her earliest memories after landing in Canada.

Maryam Khurami holds her son Esa. (included)

Many newcomers experience some challenge and culture shock in their first few months in Canada. For Abdullo Sheralizoda, a 24-year-old Ukrainian refugee, learning the English language was a big challenge, but dealing with the uncertainty of being a temporary resident is an even bigger one.

Canada-Ukraine Emergency Travel Program Approval allows Ukrainian nationals fleeing war with Russia to stay here for up to three years. Sheralizoda expressed a desire to remain in Canada.

He fled their homeland in Ukraine with his mother and five siblings when war broke out in February. Now he takes care of the family and oversees everything since his father is not with them.

“My father stayed in Ukraine as most men of military age were not allowed to leave Ukraine and put a great responsibility on my shoulders,” Sheralizoda told

After settling in Regina, he enrolled all his siblings in English courses as they try to adjust to a new society with cultural, linguistic and religious differences.

“It was very difficult for me to connect with people and find a good job here without being able to speak English,” he said.

Although Sheralizoda and his family have been going through a difficult time, they are glad that at least they are safe now and preparing for Christmas.

Abdullo Sheralizoda (second from right) poses for a photo during English class. (included)

But Christmas is a completely new phenomenon for Farhad Stanikzai and his children as an Afghan and Muslim family. When asked about his thoughts on Christmas, the answer was unexpected.

“I have no idea,” he told

But Farhad’s 12-year-old son Abdul Baset has heard about Christmas from his new friends he made a month after arriving in Regina.

“I see lights and Christmas trees everywhere and it reminds me of Nowruz (Persian New Year),” Baset said while looking at a Christmas decoration hanging from a cafe window.

Baset, his sister and two brothers are waiting to be accepted into the school since they have not been in the classroom for more than a year.

Back in Afghanistan, Farhad was an army officer and said he had worked with Canadian soldiers for more than five years. He was part of an operations group in Helmand and Nangarhar provinces assisting international forces.

When Kabul fell to the Taliban, Farhad desperately sought a way out of Afghanistan. He fled to Pakistan and after staying there for more than four months finally came to Canada a month ago.

“I found Canada to be one of the best countries in the world in terms of freedom. I have my own faith and my neighbor has his, I celebrate my own festivals and other people theirs. I love Canada’s diversity and respect.”

Back at their home in Nangarhar, east of Kabul, Farhad’s family used to visit relatives to celebrate Eid and Nowruz together, but here the family lives in a two-bedroom apartment with few friends and relatives around.

“What I miss most is going to relatives and receiving Edi (gifts) from elders,” Baset said.

Coverage for this story was paid for by the Meta-funded Afghan Journalists-in-Residence project.

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