Brothers from 2 Edmonton area families traveling to Polish-Ukrainian border to help refugees

Brothers from two Edmonton-area families will be flying to Poland next week to help refugees arriving from Ukraine.

Nestor and Pawel Turczyk of Beaumont and their friends James, Daniel and Tim Sousa of Edmonton plan to fly to Krakow from Edmonton on March 31 and return home on April 18.

From Krakow, they will travel to Przemyśl, a small town 20 minutes from the Ukrainian border that has become a humanitarian hub for thousands of refugees.

Nestor Turczyk said his parents fled the city when it was under communist rule 40 years ago, eventually coming to Edmonton as refugees. The Sousa family, whose members fled Ukraine during World War II, helped the Turczyks settle in Canada.

Turczyk has cousins ​​in Przemyśl who are doctors and a local firefighter will be their border contact.

The group plans to spend most of its time transporting refugees and emergency supplies.

“We understand what we’re going to get into and we understand that a lot of the things that we’ll see that we’ll probably live with until the day we die, but that’s nothing compared to what these people are going to live with for the rest of their lives,” Turczyk said.

The brothers plan to bring suitcases full of medical supplies and other items with them to Poland. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Both sets of brothers speak Ukrainian. Nestor and his brother also speak Polish.

“From what we’ve heard, anyone who can speak both languages ​​is a pretty big asset right now,” Turczyk said.

Tim Sousa said that when Pawel Turczyk told him about the idea of ​​the brothers on the phone, he immediately knew he wanted to go too. Her brother-in-law, Elliott Thorpe, has also agreed to join them and plans to fly from Halifax to meet the crew in Krakow on April 1.

Sousa said he sings with a male choir that has been collaborating with Ukrainian artists for a decade. A number of his friends in the country have enlisted in the Ukrainian army and he has family members who still live in the country.

“It’s a very real and personal thing for us because I’ve spoken with people who are still here and you can tell there’s a lot of despair,” he said.

James Sousa said his wife and brothers’ families support the group by organizing supplies, sorting boxes, budgeting and managing their social media channels.

The men have paid for their own flights, meals and accommodation, but are raising money to hire a van, fuel and humanitarian supplies. Their crowdfunding campaign raised over $75,000.

The team plans to share updates from Poland on Facebook, instagram and GoFundMe.

“For us, it’s important that people understand that this continues,” said Tim Sousa.

James Sousa said the men were ready to help in any way they could.

“My biggest goal is to be able to look these refugees in the eye and show them that we are living proof that there are places in the world that will help you and your family become everything you want to be,” he said.

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