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'Don't know if you're going to wake up:' Ukrainian in Montreal reflects on 2 years of war

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Saturday marks two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. Since then, thousands of war refugees have made Montreal their home.

Refugees like Andrii Vietrohon, who left his hometown of Odesa to join in his mother in Quebec.

"I feel safe and secure here, and I feel my future [is] here," he told CTV News.

The 25-year-old works as a knitter, making hats and scarves during the day and attending French class at night.

"Je comprends un peu en français, and it's going okay," he said.

Vietrohon arrived in Montreal in December 2022 on a visitor's visa. The federal government has issued hundreds of thousands of them for Ukrainians who want to work or study in Canada while they wait for the war to end.

"My understanding is that there is over 220,000 in Canada, and about 10 per cent of that, or about 22,000, would be in Quebec," said Eugene Czolij, honorary consul of Ukraine in Montreal.

Czolij said that while most Ukrainians in Montreal are adapting to life here, a vast majority plan to return home -- especially families currently separated by the war.

"When I ask, 'What are your plans?' their immediate plans would be, 'We certainly would want to return back to Ukraine as soon as it becomes safe to return,'" he said.

But that's not everyone's plan.

Vietrohon is doing everything he can to get his permanent residency so that he doesn't have to go back to Ukraine.

"You don't know if you're going to wake up tomorrow. And living with the fear in your heart every day, and to wake up with that, I mean, it can ruin your whole day," he explained.

While Vietrohon forges his own path in Canada, he says the devastation in his home country weighs on him. His father and older brother still live there, and he calls them every day.

"That's my family. That's my blood," he said. "I wish I could see them, for example, tomorrow -- here. But it's only my wishes."

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress is organizing a march in Montreal to mark the second anniversary of the invasion.

Hundreds are expected to gather in Phillips Square at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

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