Ukrainian doctors find new life on PEI as resident care workers

Trained as physicians in their country, a Ukrainian couple is now building a new life on PEI as resident care workers at a long-term care home in Charlottetown.

Olena Yevchenko, 29 and Yehor Polusmiak, 28, were on vacation in Africa when war broke out in Ukraine.

Polusmiak’s parents moved to PEI five years ago, so the couple made the decision to come to the Island instead of returning to Ukraine.

“In Ukraine, we have a very good life. We have a good job. We have a family, and we have a flat. We have cars, and everything was fine,” Yevchenko said.

“I like our life in Ukraine. But here we have another life. It’s a new life.”

Staying in health care

The couple started looking for work on the island, hoping to stay in health care, but also knowing that they would not be able to work as doctors.

“We need to confirm our diplomas. It’s a long-term and expensive process, so we need some time to confirm our credentials and our diplomas, to take some exams, then some studying,” Polusmiak said.

“We decided to try ourselves in, of course, health care. And there were options in long-term care. So we chose long-term care.”

The couple relaxes at their home in Stratford, PEI, after work. (Ken Linton/CBC)

Polusmiak is trained as an ophthalmologist, Yevchenko an emergency physician, which in Ukraine is very different from North America.

“In Ukraine, emergency physician work in ambulance, and we save people in other places, in the home, on the street, in the car,” Yevchenko said.

“It’s an adventure. I love my work.”

Yevchenko is trained as an emergency physician, which in Ukraine means traveling in an ambulance to deliver care. (Submitted by Olena Yevchenko )

Yevchenko said the work she is doing now at the long-term care home is very different.

“But it’s health care. We help people, we help residents, and the residents at Whisperwood Villa are very funny, very cute,” Yevchenko said.

“We like them, and they like us. It’s cool.”

Polusmiak trained to become an opthalmologist in Ukraine before coming to PEI (Submitted by Yehor Polusmiak )

The director of care at Whisperwood Villa said the feeling is mutual.

“It’s been phenomenal. The two of them come with a wealth of knowledge,” said Samantha Thorpe.

“They’re hard workers, they want to work. They’ve got such a passion for health care and we’re so glad that we’re able to have them here.”

Far from family

The move to PEI has been particularly hard on Yevchenko, as her parents and brothers are still in Ukraine.

She talks to them on video call several times a day.

“They are happy for me because I am safe. But they worry because it’s new life for me,” Yevchenko said.

“But they are happy I stay safe. It’s very important for them.”

The move to PEI has been particularly hard on Yevchenko, as her parents and brothers are still in Ukraine. (Submitted by Olena Yevchenko )

Yevchenko said she worries for her family and friends, and for their country.

“Oh, it’s terrible and it’s very hard for us. I see so many deaths and so many children die,” Yevchenko said.

“Young people, old people, everyone. I am so sorry. For my country. My people.”

Yevchenko says she worries for her family and friends, and for their country. (Submitted by Olena Yevchenko)

Yevchenko said many of the residents at Whisperwood Villa ask them about the situation in Ukraine, which she said, the couple appreciates.

“It’s a very beautiful country, because we have a very beautiful nature. We have a beautiful people… It’s our country. It’s our motherland. And of course, we love it,” Yevchenko said.

“I think all people ask us about Ukraine, and support us. It’s good that people know about the situation in Ukraine.”

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