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TikTok’s unlikely new star is a Ukrainian refugee in Saskatchewan – The Globe and Mail


Andrian Makhnachov at his home in Regina on Sept. 27.Michael Bell/Michael Bell Photography

A teenager who fled the war in Ukraine has become a surprise TikTok sensation with his quirky take on life in Canada, including discovering that milk comes in bags.

Andrian Makhnachov, who arrived in Saskatchewan in May from a small village near Lviv, has received millions of views worldwide for his videos chronicling his adjustment to Canadian life.

The 19-year-old received 11.7 million views for a video about Canadian currency showing him washing a $20 bill under his kitchen tap.

The fact that bills are plastic was one of the things that surprised him about Canadian life, he said.

“I love it they are not even afraid of water. I love it they always look like new. Ukrainian money is easy to destroy,” he says.

A video of the teenager trying a Nanaimo bar – “a traditional Canadian dessert” – for the first time, received 1.2 million views.

“This is something interesting. I can’t understand what is inside,” he said after taking a bite.

Preparing for the onset of winter in Saskatchewan, he wonders whether a coat he slept in at a railway station in Ukraine overnight will be warm enough for Regina’s sub-zero temperatures.

“Everyone tells me about the winter in Canada,” he says, trying on layers of clothes. “I am very scared.”

Most of @Makhnachov’s 173,000 followers are Canadian, though he also has a big fan base in Ukraine and the Philippines, with four million “likes” worldwide, including from Kazakhstan.

“It was very unexpected, like it just happened one day,” the teenager said from Regina, where he works in a bakery, after a stint at Dairy Queen.

The teenager fled his village near the target of a Russian missile strike to join his older brother who was already in Canada. His father stayed behind to serve in the territorial defence force.

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His popularity has been so rapid it was raised in a parliamentary committee last week by Steve de Eyre, director of public policy at TikTok, in testimony about Canadian digital-first creators.

In an interview, Mr. de Eyre ascribed the success of the videos to “rediscovering Canada through the eyes of a newcomer.”

“It’s just this fascinating lens to explore our culture,” Mr. de Eyre said. He said it was unclear whether, under new rules being brought in by the government’s online streaming bill, the posts about Canada would count as “Canadian content” because the creator is Ukrainian.

His videos on “laws in Canada that seem strange to me” include one about discovering he had to wait to turn 19 to go clubbing, which was viewed 1.7 million times.

He has also recorded his impressions of a Tim Hortons double-double, “Canadian pancakes” and mac and cheese. The teenager flew to Toronto in search of milk in bags and on an express train from the airport marvelled at how the cars had air-conditioning and ran on rails high above ground.

“When I first saw a subway in the air I was shocked,” he said.

He found a visit to a Saskatchewan supermarket equally magical, with more perogies than in a Ukrainian store and rows of potato chips. He was flabbergasted by the discovery of dips and tried several.

He plans to follow suggestions from Canadians to try poutine next and go to a hockey game.

In one of his posts about the warmth of Canadian hospitality, the Ukrainian teen remarks:

“Yesterday my Canadian neighbour brought me something strange. It turned out that these are real homemade Canadian banana pancakes. She told us that if we want to become real Canadians we should eat them every day. We didn’t believe it at first but she assured us. Does everyone have such a good relationship with their neighbours in Canada?”