New job as head baker helps Ukrainian newcomer find familiarity in Winnipeg
Life in Canada is off to a sweet start for a Ukrainian baker who has found a new home for her creations in Winnipeg.
Hanna Tokar, who has only been in Canada for just over a month, is now the head baker at the Winnipeg location of The Butter Tart Lady.
Michelle Wierda, the owner of the bakery, offered her a job after seeing a Facebook post Tokar made where she shared her struggles with finding employment in Winnipeg.
“I saw her pictures and I thought, ‘I have to interview her,'” Wierda told host Marcy Markusa in a Tuesday interview with CBC’s Information Radio.
“I saw her attention to detail. Her work is just spectacular. It looked very delicious.”
Before coming to Canada, Tokar owned a bakery she operated by herself in her hometown of Kherson, a port city in southern Ukraine.
She was forced to permanently close its doors when she came to Canada, fleeing Kherson after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Tokar said she was shocked to get the offer to work at the Winnipeg bakery.
“I didn’t expect [to] … have an offer to work in a bakery, because it was actually my dream to have that job here. So it was amazing for me,” she told Information Radio.
Feb. 24 will mark the one-year anniversary of the war in Ukraine.
Since then, more than 800,000 Ukrainian nationals and their family members have applied for special temporary resident visas to come to Canada, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The ministry said as of late December, more than 132,000 Ukrainian nationals had entered Canada since the start of 2022.
While Tokar’s parents are safe elsewhere in Europe, she says she prays for her grandparents who stayed in Kherson, which has experienced heavy damage due to shelling.
“I actually miss Ukraine. I actually miss my friends and my life — my previous life,” Tokar said.
“I really want them to really be proud of me, so that’s why when I have a job I called them and my grandparents really cried.”
As she settles into her new role as head baker at The Butter Tart Lady’s Winnipeg location, the return to what has been a lifelong passion provides Tokar with familiarity in a new place.
Although she is still new to the position, Tokar is already infusing the menu with traditional Ukrainian treats, something Wierda is excited about.
Of these treats is pampushky, a Ukrainian garlic bread that is traditionally served with borscht, Tokar explained.
On the two days she made pampushky, it sold out immediately, said Wierda.
As they look toward to the future, the two women are excited for their partnership.
“I love to be so creative and imaginative, and that’s what I’ve seen in Hanna, is that she’s very determined,” Wierda said. “She has a strong ambition to excellence and she’s always researching, looking for new ideas, new things.”
For Tokar, this experience provides hope for what life in Canada can be.
“You know, I never expect that, like, some foreign people can support me like that,” she said.
“And I really like appreciate the kindness of people.”
Information Radio – MB6:15Baker from Ukraine is frosting cupcakes while connecting with a new community in Winnipeg