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Displaced Ukrainian, living in South Surrey, to talk at TEDx event

New ‘Surrey salon’ talks make debut at Semiahmoo House

Serhii (Sergey) Toporkov – a displaced programming and software engineering manager from Mariupol, Ukraine, recently arrived on the Semiahmoo Peninsula – will be one of the speakers at a new TedxSurreySalon event to be held at Semiahmoo House on Wednesday (June 15).

Toporkov and his wife Olena, both engineers employed at the Avostal Iron and Steel Works, were removed from their hometown by Russian troops early in the war on Ukraine.

Transported to Russia, but choosing not to be declared Russian citizens, they took a circuitous escape route (including brief stops in Turkey and Germany), before finally arriving in Canada last month to stay with relatives in South Surrey.

Alan Warburton licensee/curator of TedxSurreySalon said he read the Torporkovs’ story in the Peace Arch News and realized that Serhii, a fluent English-speaker, would be a natural for the first event.

READ ALSO: Ukraine refugees, now in Surrey, bear witness to ordeal of war

“The idea behind the TedxSurreySalon is to have a much smaller event, of around 50 people, and have a smaller group of speakers, all on the same topic. It will provide an opportunity for discussion in smaller groups and also the overall group, which would help deepen understanding,” he said.

Theme for the June 15 event, sponsored by and presented in partnership with UNITI, is “belonging for all in our community,” he added, and Toporkov will join compelling indigenous speaker Len Pierre, and Stan Leyenhorst, who has been championing accessibility for some 40 years as a quadriplegic.

Pierre, a Coast Salish from the Katzie First Nation, specializes in developing educational programs and services with decolonization and reconciliation as core values, while Leyenhorst is dedicated to the concept of universal design, to allow access for all, at any time.

“Serhii is going to give us a completely different perspective,” Warburton said. “He’ll tell us his story, but he’ll also tell us what he needs as a displaced person coming here.

“It’s important for us to learn how people are receiving them, and find out what we can do to support them and make them feel included in the community.”

Toporkov told PAN that since the article appeared, he and Olena have been settling into their new surroundings, but are still focused on finding jobs so they can start to give back to Canada for the help they have received, including visas, emergency travel permits, social insurance numbers and medical coverage.

“I have put in applications to a number of companies, some of which have led to interviews, some of which haven’t,” he said.

Olena was formerly a process control engineer, but as her spoken English is not as good as his, they are wondering if she can also find temporary work, perhaps in the retail field, while she improves her language skills.

Anyone interested in offering work to the couple is invited to contact them at

Semiahmoo House is located at 15306 24 Ave., and admission to the TedxSurreySalon event is $15.

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