Nova Scotia

Russian fisherman happy to be Nova Scotian

A Russian man who jumped ship in Halifax harbour 10 years ago is finally living legally with his family in Nova Scotia.

Deported 6 years ago

A Russian man who jumped ship in Halifax harbour 10 years ago is finally living legally with his family in Nova Scotia.

Vladimir Zalipyatskikh was one of 39 fishermen who jumped off the broken-down Russian factory trawler ship, Bizon, into the Bedford Basin in August 2000.

Zalipyatskikh said the ship was unsafe and the captain called them his "slaves."

He and 13 others from that boat remained in Canada as refugees, and the Cole family in Porters Lake gave them jobs and a place to stay.

"We hired Vladimir and most of the other 14 at Permacrete, and they worked all winter," Colleen Cole said Tuesday. "Vladimir was the one that shone above the rest, and he basically became a part of our family."

Zalipyatskikh never forgot his own young family in Russia, sending every pay cheque back home. In 2004, he was deported back to Russia. He expected to be back in Canada within months. Instead it took six years.

"When Vladimir dove into Halifax harbour off the ship that day, he left all of his papers behind, so he had no identity," Cole said.

Friends in the right places

"And going back to Russia to try to go back to every place he's lived and get a work history, and a criminal history, it was just almost an impossible thing because nobody keeps good records."

The Cole family said they had friends in the right places.

"Along the way [Senator] John Buchanan became involved, [Defence Minister] Peter MacKay and the prime minister himself, whom we met. I'm sure there were things in the background that they were doing that we weren't aware of," Cole said.

The Zalipyatskikh and Cole families celebrated his permanent residency in Canada Tuesday at the Cole home.

Zalipyatskikh said that he, his wife, Natasha, and their son, Nicholas, are grateful for the Coles' help and never want to look back.

"My wife and my boy love it, just to stand on Canadian land and say, 'Wow, it's [a] nice country,' " he said. "I don't know what to say anymore. It's a perfect country."

Zalipyatskikh said his only worries now are getting a driver's licence and enrolling his son in Grade 7.