Two Families Joined at the Hearts By The War in Ukraine

Alexandra Peach and Mahdi Aouaj

Left to right: El Mahdi Aouaj (with son Raian Aouaj), Mariia Aouaj, Jay Yetman, Michael Yetman, Alex Peach with Amir Aouaj in front of her and Carolyn Yetman - and the Yetman family dog, Tui, in the middle. Photo Supplied

Left to right: El Mahdi Aouaj (with son Raian Aouaj), Mariia Aouaj, Jay Yetman, Michael Yetman, Alex Peach with Amir Aouaj in front of her and Carolyn Yetman – and the Yetman family dog, Tui, in the middle. Photo Supplied


The Peach/Yetman Family

When my husband Mike and I planned an ‘in-law’ suite in our new house, our plans were to have a possible space for our parents. The invasion of Ukraine created a whole different situation.

As we saw the horrendous images daily on the news, we discussed the idea of hosting a family to escape the violence. After considering the logistics, we acted quickly and placed an ad on the website “Ukraine Take Shelter” and within 24 hours we had two replies to our ad. Through WhatsApp we met the Aouaj family, who had already fled Ukraine and were taking shelter in Morocco, where Mahdi, the father is from, and we immediately wanted to offer them our help.

Through all of the support from our neighbours, we were able to set up the ‘in-law’ for a family of four, equipped with toys, firetrucks, scooters and everything a young family would need. On June 1st, at the McDonald Cartier International Airport, a very tired but relieved family came down the escalator. Together we came home to Merritt Avenue.

An unsung hero in this story is our dog, Tui. Love for animals is universal and the boys immediately fell on her, hugged and played with her which made everyone feel like they had a common bond. In fact, both boys’ first word in English was “Tui”! She became the patient, loving hero that personifies the good in all of us that isn’t always easy to communicate. With love, we welcomed our new friends to Canada.


The Aouaj Family

The day that Russia invaded Ukraine, I (Mahdi) was actually in Morocco finalizing documentation for my Ukrainian citizenship. It was terrifying news, and many countries were announcing evacuation orders. I had no other choice than to clandestinely get my family out of Ukraine as quickly as possible. My wife and the boys were able to escape but my wife’s mother and brother were unable to get out. It has been a horrifying experience because we are constantly thinking about our family and all of our friends who are still there.

After the invasion began, in March, the Canadian government created a special program, the CUAET (the Canada-Ukrainian Authorization Emergency Travel) that fast tracks immigration for Ukrainians seeking asylum. People coming in through this program are considered temporary residents. After the bloodbath in Ukraine, we submitted all of our documentation and we were accepted to come to Canada, making us very happy.

Once we chose Ottawa as a good place for us and after searching online, we found and met a warm family who welcomed us with love and joy at the Ottawa airport. This was of course, the Yetman/Peach family. They offered our family accommodations in their home and helped us with many things. The help they gave us for our initial needs was truly amazing. They have our love and gratitude.

I am a civil engineer with seven years of experience in industrial construction. My wife is a certified esthetician with expertise in many techniques. We hope to find work opportunities in our areas of expertise. In conclusion, I want to thank you all for your support and have opened your hearts and doors to us. It is truly a marvellous thing.

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