Speaking with Veronika Kotyk about her recent work, A Nest in the North, revealed the kindness, unexpected support and welcoming hospitality of Canadians to new immigrants, refugees and displaced people. It is immediately apparent that Koytk is both surprised and grateful for the welcoming support and assistance she received when arriving in Canada and every day since.
A Nest in the North, a children’s book sponsored by Tim Hortons and the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), discusses the search for safety and comfort and belonging from the perspective of a goose and its travels. All proceeds from the sale of this book go towards funding and supporting refugees, the displaced and stateless people. The images and illustrations depict the safety and peace of beautiful birds: the goose, the owl, the eagle, the heron, the dove, the bluejay, the robin and some others.
“When the war started, my husband worked for a Canadian company, and they suggested we come to Vancouver,” she says. “We did not know where we would go. We were on a tourist visa in Turkey and didn’t imagine being here. Everything was completely different, but the most important thing is the people – very polite, kind, understanding. I [met] a refugee from Iran, and we talked a lot. The country is on fire, and we come from different backgrounds. The feeling is we’re different and very similar. It is impossible to understand what they feel, but you do what you can, if you feel you need to help others, if you have the empathy.”
This echoes her sentiments shared from the UNHCR’s article about how she respects and admires that in Canada, people with differences – culture, religion, gender, etc. – all seem to peacefully coexist.
“We arrived and found a host family where we were allowed to stay with others they don’t know. So kind, how Canada works. Canada is very unusual. I was a bit shocked – what do they want from me? I was so stressed. But the building manager was also a newcomer, and he explained the process, the credit score. He understood our situation and was happy to help us. I was extremely grateful and did not expect so much support,” Kotyk explains with regards to some of the challenges they faced in finding housing.
When asked about what this meant to her to be honoured or showcased in an article on the UNHCR website, her answer was shy and modest.
“I’m just a children’s book illustrator. I am honoured. I told my story, did what I am good at. This work was extremely emotional and hard. So much support and help for many people in Canada,” says Kotyk.
Going forward, Kotyk is working on another book – a children’s book that is due out in September/October.
“It is about the celebrations and traditions of Halloween in different cultures compared to in Ukraine and other celebrations [in other countries],” she says.
100 per cent of the proceeds from the sale of her work, A Nest in the North, go to supporting and assisting refugees and displaced people through the UNHCR, described by their website as “a global organization dedicated to saving lives and protecting the rights of refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.”
For more information and to learn more about Veronika Kotyk, please see her website:
From the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), please see: