Two Ukrainian sisters who are staying with a couple in Colchester, Ont., are grateful after receiving a donation of a car to help them get around.
"Having [a car] sounds like a simple need, but when we need to go do more important things like go get our government stuff, it would make everything so much easier," said Kateryna "Katya" Hutnyk, 21.
Hutnyk came to Canada from Eastern Ukraine. Her older sister Svitlana, 29, arrived separately but is also staying with the same couple.
"Me and my sister were [living under] Russian occupation in Ukraine," said Katya.
"When you live there, you lose all trust about people. When you feel like other people can kill you, you lose that trust."
The sisters are staying with empty nesters Elisabeth and Thomas Hangartner, who have decided to host refugees in need. But with that act of generosity came a new set of challenges, including the limited transportation options in community, which have restricted their guests' ability to access government resources and move forward with their lives.
That's until a few random acts of kindness and the local community rallied together in support of Ukraine.
Elisabeth Hangartner took to the internet to reach out and see if anyone was in the position to donate a car.
The Hangartners' post on Nextdoor, a neighbourhood-based posting app. (Josiah Sinanan /CBC News)
"Well, I posted one on Nextdoor, the neighbourhood website, but there was not much response," she said. "But then I went to my chiropractor, who told me a client [of theirs] is a car mechanic in Harrow."
That's when Hangartner got in touch with Collin Shields, who owns Techs R Us, an auto repair shop in Harrow.
"Basically [Elisabeth and Thomas] came in one day with the [sisters] and explained the situation," he said. "They asked if I had any available vehicles that could help, and at the time I didn't, but I wanted to help where I could."
Hangartner then mentioned in her online posting that a local mechanic has volunteered some work on the car, in support of Ukraine. Still to no avail, she decided on a different approach.
A couple of weeks after posting online, Hangartner shared her story with CBC Radio, and a few days later, a listener requested a connection with the family, to offer up a 2009 Dodge Caliber with under 75,000 kilometres.
Colleen Thompson's 2009 Dodge Caliber, which was sitting outside of her house in Windsor, Ont., for a long time, prior to hearing the news about the Hutnyks. (Submitted by Thomas Hangartner)
The donor, Windsor resident Colleen Thompson, said the car had just been sitting around for quite a while, "waiting for an opportunity."
"I was just listening to the radio, I have it in the background as company, and I heard Elisabeth talking," she said.
"I heard they were looking for a car, so I kind of listened a bit and heard a mechanic would help, and I thought, 'yeah, this will work.'"
After connecting with Thompson, the Hangartners had to have the car towed from Thompson's apartment to Techs R Us, since the battery was not functional. Once they arrived at the shop, Shields was standing by, ready to take it in and get the vehicle ready for the road.
"After some discussion, we had the car towed for $200 dollars," said Elisabeth. "Then, the mechanic told us he would not charge us [for that], since the transfer occurred in support of Ukrainian refugees."
Colleen Thompson's car being towed on the week of Aug. 21 from Thompson's apartment to the Harrow mechanic, Techs R Us. (Submitted by Thomas Hangartner)
According to Shields, the repairs should be minimal.
"It looks like the [vehicle] was well maintained," he said. "I'm going to try and donate the bigger stuff and then get parts at cost. And I'll take care of the labour. I think it's going to be a nice little car for them, these cars are really not that expensive to fix."
Among the activities the sisters have been pursuing since their arrival, Svitlana has taken it upon herself to get her Canadian driver's licence.
"It's really amazing," said Katya of her older sister. "She has a Ukrainian driver's license but because the government has helped Ukrainians [transfer documents], she was able to get her G1 right away and can take her test to drive alone at any time."
For the Hutnyk sisters, the act of kindness is something that has helped restore the broken trust they experienced leaving Ukraine and arriving in Canada under false promises.
While still in Ukraine, Katya met a man who claimed to be a Canadian volunteer who could help her get settled. The man instructed her to send her luggage to an address in London, Ont., but upon arrival, was never heard from again.
Sisters Katya and Svitlana Hutnyk at Point Pelee National Park. The Hutnyks come from a small, rural village in Northeastern Ukraine, 50 kilometres from the Russian border. Their parents’ grain and livestock farm have had 20 per cent of this year’s harvest destroyed in the conflict. (Submitted by Elisabeth Hangartner)
"When [I was tricked into sending my luggage to Canada], we thought we had made a big mistake," said Katya.
"We felt like we failed. So when you have something like this, good people who want to help you, you really start to have hope. You start to trust people [again]."
Katya and Svitlana are hoping the vehicle will not only help them attend their English classes and get errands done, but both sisters are still looking for work. For Katya, she hopes that she can find a job in Windsor, now that she has a transportation option she can access daily.
For donor Thompson, she says she is thrilled she could help play a role.
"It really looks like it's going to work out good for the girls," she said. "I'm so looking forward to seeing how they do and we're going to keep in touch."
"Just pay it forward. It really does help."