Barrie woman who opened her home to family of 13 Ukrainian refugees honoured by local car dealership

Cathy Locke’s generosity hit home for the Moffatt’s.

“We are half Ukrainian, so we’re aware of what’s going on,” says Steve Moffatt, co-owner of Moffatt’s Mazda in Barrie.

Locke was recently asked to be at the dealership, and when she arrived, she was unsure why there were so many people, not to mention so many people with cameras.

The reason became clear when Locke was presented with the “Local Legend Community Award” from Moffatt’s Mazda for opening her home to 13 Ukrainian refugees. Along with the award, she was presented with a cheque for $5,000.

“This is the second year Mazda has had the award,” explains Greg Moffat, co-owner of Moffatt’s Mazda. “You look around your community and look for people that are helping their community and nominate them, which is submitted to Mazda for approval.”

The Moffatt’s learned about Locke through Steve Weston, a salesperson at the dealership who goes to the same church as her.

The journey from Ukraine to Barrie began at Mapleview Community Church.

“There was a woman working out of their office, and she was bringing Ukrainians and vetting them,” explains Locke.

She then ran an idea through her mind, noting there was space in her home, and it would be a transition for three months.

“Here we are seven months later and not transitioning, but that’s how it worked out!” smiles Locke.

Locke lives with her two boys, her husband passed away two years ago and her in-laws had been living with her, but when one of them died the other moved into his own place.

“I do have a big house, so the Ukrainians have the upstairs floor and main floor which has a dining room and another room. The dining room has been turned into a bedroom.”

Locke moved herself and her kids into the basement.

This was not a new experience. Locke has opened her home to several different families since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

On the day of the presentation, Locke brought the mother, Tetiana Zhylina, with her.

She and her husband, Maksym, fled their home in western Ukraine for the safety of Slovakia, hoping for a quick end to the war, but that wasn’t the case, and they eventually found themselves needing another place to live and came in contact with someone from the Canada Ukraine Corporation Network, who offered to help with the paperwork to bring the family to Canada.”

The couple has 11 children – ranging in age from six to 22 – all adopted except two including a child that Tetiana is pregnant with, and there are two others who had to remain in Ukraine to fight.

While the couple’s children are far away from the war zone, not every day is a sunny one for the kids.

“It’s hard on them some days,” says Locke. “Emotionally, sometimes it comes through, even with mom and dad.”

Interestingly enough, Tetiana and her husband were also orphans.

The money Locke received will be used to help support her family and her new family.

“I still pay a big mortgage, and I was supposed to sell my house and retire, but we’ll keep things going, and then I will retire,” she says.

Looking at Tetiana, she adds, “I’ll get old, they’ll take care of me, and we’re all good.”

Banner image (left to right): Mark Moffatt, Greg Moffatt, Steve Moffatt, Cathy Locke, Tetiana Zhylina, and Steve Weston.