A year after Russia launched a brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainians in British Columbia are trying to adjust to a new life while dealing with fear for their friends and family back home.

Estimated 11,000 Ukrainian refugees has resided in BC since war broke out.

Dozens of them, like Olga Osadets, have found work Kozak Ukrainian restaurant in Metro Vancouver.

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Osadets fled Odessa with her son in April and joined Kozak as a dishwasher. She is now assistant manager, said general manager Alex Surinov, who is translating for Global News.

“When she flew to Canada, she didn’t know at all if she would find a job but the only point of why she chose Canada was because she wants to find a better way for her son to live – to live in peace,” he translated.

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Click to play video: 'Volunteer group helping Ukrainian refugees appeals to host families'

Volunteer group helping Ukrainian refugees appeals to host families

The restaurant is run by husband and wife Sergiy Kuznietsov and Iryna Karpenko, who opened it nearly a decade ago after immigrating in 2012.

Since the war started, the couple has hired 42 Ukrainian refugees and kept a list of others for when positions opened up.

“Everything from dishes to the manager. Every role imaginable in the restaurant business, you name it, you have a team member from Ukraine,” Kuznietsov said.

“They were obviously struggling because of what they witnessed or what happened to their relatives. At the same time, you have relatives in Ukraine as well … emotionally it’s hard, you learn how to work with your emotions, how to work with your mental health, how you help others get through difficult times.”

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Global News visited Kozak just days after the war broke out, as locals packed the business to show support and help collect for humanitarian aid – but Karpenko was wracked with worry for family members still in Ukraine.

The invasion began on her mother’s birthday, she recalled. She explained how she woke her mother at 5am with the terrible news.

“I woke her up and screamed, ‘It’s a war,’ and she couldn’t believe it,” she said. “That’s how they found out.”

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Vacant homes in Vancouver house Ukrainian refugees

Many of Karpenko’s family members remain in the country, although there have been small victories.

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In April she was able to bring her sister and nephew to Vancouver, and since then she has been able to bring her parents as well.

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Both her mother and sister work at various locations in Kozaks, while her father helps them as a craftsman.

“Which is a blessing for me. My sister, my mom, they work with us,” she said.

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Even so, the war is never far from the couple’s thoughts.

“Everything changed upside down,” she said.

“For us, whatever we feel, it’s nothing for those who came here, who saw it and all those who are still there.”

And every day brings with it the threat of new trauma.

Osadets said her uncle was killed in action just days before the war reached its one-year mark.

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“He died just two days ago after ending up in a hotspot for fighting … he was only 39 years old,” Surinov translated.

For others, the flight to Canada has been marked by new life.

Refugee Anna Chebotar fled to BC while pregnant, and has already started putting down new roots.

“I’m worried because it’s a different country, I don’t have any friends – but now I have some friends, thank God,” she said.

“I want to say thank you very, very much for your support.”

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Helping Ukrainian refugees settle in B.C

There have been at least 8,000 confirmed civilian deaths in the conflict, according to the United Nations human rights agency, although this figure is believed to be significantly lower than the true death toll.

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The British Ministry of Defense has estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russian soldiers have died, while Ukraine claims 9,000 of its own soldiers have lost their lives. Both figures are difficult to verify.

Supporters of Ukraine planned a rally outside the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch for 7 p.m. Friday, with a second rally at Jack Poole Plaza at 3 p.m. Sunday.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.