How a Ukrainian couple fled war and built a food business in Calgary

For Anna and Vladimir Posikera, leaving Ukraine to escape the war and starting afresh in Calgary was a life-changing decision that was difficult to execute.

“We didn’t know where to go. We didn’t know what to do. We just left Ukraine and we just tapped to the unknown,” Anna said in an interview with The Calgary Eyeopener. 

“It was the hardest part in our life. We came here without language, without understanding what to do next. We have just a huge hope that now we are in [a] safe place. But thank God people here help us.”

The Posikeras are from a small town in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. They initially attempted to find a safe hideout in the western part of the country before concluding it was unsafe to stay put any longer.

“We had to leave Ukraine just to save our kids, to save our life. We had just only two packs of toys for kids and that’s it,” Anna said.

According to Vladimir, coming to Canada with their kids and Anna’s mother seemed like a good option because the couple had relatives who’d been living in the country for several years.

However, the transition was harder than expected on account of the language gap.

“Language is the hardest part in immigration,” Vladimir said before adding, “I can say this like with 100% [certainty].”

He started working in the construction industry, hoping to get by and provide for his family.

“My first job was like in construction and understand that like I’m not a constructor. You know what I mean?”

Vladimir Posikera believes one of the trickiest parts of immigrating to a different country is overcoming the language gap. (Submitted by Vladimir Posikera)

An unexpected turning point

The turning point for the Posikeras was unexpected — they attended a party and brought some colourful, homemade treats that became an instant hit.

“Everyone in Ukraine make perogies. Everyone. And there is a lot of different recipes, variation, fillings,” Anna said.

Perogies, a food familiar to many Albertans, are stuffed dumplings made with dough and a variety of fillings like chicken, cheese, fruit, vegetables, and more.

But the perogies made by the Posikeras come with an imaginative twist. 

LISTEN | Anna Posikera talks about building a business in Calgary:

Calgary Eyeopener9:24Second anniversary of the war in Ukraine

A Ukrainian living in Calgary reflects on two years of war, and building a new life in Canada.

Anna and Vladimir were on a quest to ensure their kids eat well and came up with a fun solution — striped, colourful perogies made using vegetable paste and a variety of ingredients.

What they didn’t realize was that the colourful dumping was a relatively unique treat in Calgary until they saw their friends fawning over the dish.

“We made them for our friends and they said, ‘Well, it’s cool,'” Vladimir said.

“You need to try to sell them.”

A leap of faith

A close-up shot of a plate of green and yellow striped stuffed dumplings, also known as pierogies.
Anna and Vladimir were on a quest to ensure their kids eat well and came up with a fun solution — striped, colorful perogies made using vegetable paste and a variety of delicious ingredients. (Submitted by Vladimir Posikera)

The Posikeras were inspired to take a leap of faith and start a business of their own, the Tisto Factory.

It was a bumpy ride at the start. After being refused a loan at several banks, the couple decided to sell their car in a bid to raise funds for the business.

“We started just with the farmers’ market and just to sell it,” Anna said, adding they spent a huge chunk of their time marketing and selling the perogies on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

Vladimir took it upon himself to make food deliveries after working all day, hoping to reach more customers.

As time passed, things started to look up and the Posikeras received an offer from Calgary Co-op. Their products are now available at several Co-op outlets in the city.

A close-up shot of blue and yellow stuffed dumplings, also known as pierogies.
Anna and Vladimir Posikera hope to grow their food business further and establish a strong customer base. (Submitted by Vladimir Posikera)

What’s next? The goal is to grow as a business and build a strong customer base in the future, according to Vladimir.

Meanwhile, Anna hopes to visit Ukraine someday and spend time with her loved ones.

“I wish I came back to Ukraine and visit my relatives, my friends,” she said.

“But the main thing is that now where I [am] from, the active fighting is taking place now, and a lot of buildings, kindergarten, schools, everything is destroyed. And I will, I pray that I will have…somewhere to return.”

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