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Booklet explaining Canadian cash to new arrivals from Ukraine includes $188 of the real thing

A Sooke man and his siblings, whose grandfather was swindled as a new arrival in the 1930s, have created a handbook for those escaping the war in Ukraine
Bill Romaniuk with Change for Hope booklets, which help educate newly arrived Ukrainians about Canadian cash. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A Sooke man is using a lesson his grandfather learned the hard way to give newly arrived Ukrainians a hand up in understanding local currency.

Bill Romaniuk said when his grandfather, Stephen Romaniuk, arrived in Canada from Ukraine in the 1930s, he had few language skills and no understanding of Canadian money. “After he arrived, he was approached and invited to exchange his money for ­Canadian ­currency,” he said. “Unfortunately, the broker was dishonest and our grandfather lost 80 per cent of his money.”

Remembering their grandfather’s ordeal, Romaniuk, his sister Sue in Ottawa and brother John in Toronto got together to create a handbook explaining Canadian currency for Ukrainians arriving in Canada to escape the war in their country.

Called Change for Hope, the five-page booklet, written in both Ukrainian and English, not only gives the new arrivals helpful information, such as images of Canadian currency, it includes actual money. In total there is $188 (and change) included with each booklet.

The family is paying to print the booklets, which are hand-delivered to Island recipients identified by Help Ukraine Vancouver Island, and by other charities helping Ukrainians in Ontario.

Individuals can sponsor booklets and write a personalized message to the newcomers.

Since the first one was handed out in April, 70 booklets have been delivered to new arrivals, half in Greater ­Victoria and half in Ontario, for a total of just over $13,000.

“The books are a lovely gesture. But more ­importantly, the gift is hand-delivered to the ­recipient,” said Karmen McNamara, general manager of Help Ukraine Vancouver Island. “The gift’s true value is that it says ‘Canadians care about you and are willing to help you.’ ”

She said that there is a common misconception that the new arrivals are refugees, but the recent wave of arrivals is only in the country on three-year expedited work permits — not as refugees.

The federal government provides the new arrivals with $3,000 for an adult and $1,500 per child, while a refugee would receive $20,000 to $30,000 and be eligible for federal programs and benefits to assist with their integration into society as well as housing costs.

“Individual initiatives, such as the Romaniuk family’s educational book, really make a difference,” McNamara said.

Anyone interested in sponsoring a book can contact Bill Romaniuk at [email protected].

[email protected]

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Note to readers: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Karmen McNamara's name.