Saskatoon

Ukrainian family desperate to be aboard charter flight to Saskatchewan from Poland

Oksana Desnytska fled from Ukraine to Poland when the airport in her hometown, Lutsk, was bombed on Feb. 24. Now, she wants her family to be aboard the recently announced charter flight to Saskatchewan but says she isn't sure where to turn for information.

Registration process will begin once the final details of the flight are confirmed

Oksana Desnytska, husband, Serhi, son Arthur and daughter Oleksandra fled to Poland from Ukraine when the airport in her hometown, Lutsk, was bombed on Feb. 24. (Submitted by Oksana Desnytska)

Oksana Desnytska fled to Poland from Lutsk, a city in northwestern Ukraine, when the city's airport was bombed by Russian forces on Feb. 24.

Now, she hopes she and her family will be among the estimated 230 evacuees set to board a recently announced charter flight to Saskatchewan from Warsaw, Poland's capital, but she says details remain missing.

Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan's minister of immigration and career training, told CBC News last Friday that there is flexibility around the arrival but the target date is July 4.

Desnytska, 34, who is currently in Rzeszow with her husband, Serhil Desnytski, 34, (editor note: the names of women and men of the same family are slightly different in Ukraine), daughter, Oleksandra, nine, and son, Arthur, three, says she is grateful to the Saskatchewan government for offering her family the chance at a new life.

"Today, all cities in Ukraine can't be safe, especially for children. When my daughter asks me every time why Russia attacked us, I really don't know what to say," she said.

Oksana Desnytska says her daughter Oleksandra keeps asking her for reasons behind Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Submitted by Oksana Desnytska)

Desnytska says her family is leaving a lot behind. Along with her parents, Desnytska and her husband operated six sports and accessories shops in Ukraine.

"One of our shops was among the many in Kharkiv's shopping centre that was bombed," she said.

The family is closing two more in a few months, because "people have other problems like safety in Ukraine and not shoes."

With hopes of a new life in Canada, Desnytska submitted her application under Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel in March. 

Under that stream, Canada received 312,548 Ukrainian  applications between March 17 and June 15. It has so far approved 136,877 applicants.

"We were waiting for nine weeks to receive our passports," Desnytska said. "But now, we have no information about the charter flights. I don't know who I can ask for information"

Desnytska has found a family willing to host them in Elbow, about 140 kilometres south of Saskatoon, but says she does not know how to get seats on the charter flight.

In an email statement, the Saskatchewan government says the flight registration and selection process is being conducted by Open Arms, a humanitarian aid organization in Warsaw, in partnership with the Ukrainian Embassy. 

 

We were waiting for nine weeks to receive our passports. But now we have no information about the charter flights. I don't know who I can ask for information.- Oksana Desnytska, Ukrainian evacuee

"The registration process will begin once the final details of the flight are confirmed. This information will be posted on the Ukrainian Embassy's website when registration begins," the statement says.

According to the government, officials in Saskatchewan are working with partners in Warsaw to determine specific needs of the evacuees prior to the flight leaving Poland that "may include things like having translators available to assist Ukrainians with filling out required customs forms, ArriveCAN app and such."

"We will provide assistance as required, which may include having Saskatchewan officials in Warsaw prior to the flight."

Harrison indicated in his interview last week that the government is continuing to have "longer-term discussions on engagement on this file," and will continue to work directly with the government of Ukraine on how Saskatchewan can continue to help.

The government says it will work to facilitate transportation options for the newcomers whose final destination is a community outside of Regina.

"Government officials, settlement organizations and community partners are working together to ensure newcomers will have easy access to supports and services when they arrive in Saskatchewan, including temporary accommodations, health care, income assistance and other supports."

Oksana Desnytska says the safety of her son Arthur, who turned three in June, and daughter Oleksandra is a big reason for the family's move to Canada. (Submitted by Oksana Desnytska)

Desnytska said her "happy future" remains in Saskatchewan.She hopes to move to Saskatoon after her first stay in Elbow: "In Saskatoon, we want to work and send our children to school and daycare."

She said she never thought of immigrating to Canada as they had a "good life in Ukraine" but with the uncertainty of the Russian invasion, Saskatchewan is her next hope.

"We must do everything to keep our children safe and ensure they have a happy life," she said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pratyush Dayal covers climate change, immigration and race and gender issues among general news for CBC News in Saskatchewan. He has previously written for the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Tyee. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UBC and can be reached at pratyush.dayal@cbc.ca

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