Ukrainian family desperate to board charter flight to Saskatchewan from Poland

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

Now she hopes she and her family will be among some 230 evacuees set to board a recently announced charter flight to Saskatchewan from Poland’s capital Warsaw, but she says details are lacking.

Jeremy Harrison, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Immigration and Skills Training, told CBC News last Friday that there is flexibility around arrival but the target date is 4th of July.

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

“Today, not every city in Ukraine can be safe, especially for children. When my daughter asks me every time why Russia attacked us, I really don’t know what to say,” he said. she stated.

Oksana Desnytska says her daughter Oleksandra keeps asking her about the reasons for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Submitted by Oksana Desnytska)

Desnytska says her family leaves a lot behind. Together with her parents, Desnytska and her husband operated six sports and accessories stores in Ukraine.

“One of our stores was among many stores in the Kharkiv mall that were bombed,” she said.

The family is closing two more in a few months because “people have other issues like security in Ukraine and not shoes.”

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

Under this component, Canada has received 312,548 Ukrainian requests between March 17 and June 15. It has so far approved 136,877 candidates.

“We waited nine weeks to receive our passports,” Desnytska said. “But now we have no information on charter flights. I don’t know who I can ask for information”

Desnytska has found a family willing to house them in Elbow, about 140 kilometers south of Saskatoon, but says she doesn’t know how to get seats on the charter flight.

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

We waited nine weeks to receive our passports. But now we have no information about charter flights. I don’t know who to ask for information.– Oksana Desnytska, Ukrainian evacuee

“The check-in process will begin once the final flight details are confirmed. This information will be posted on the Ukrainian Embassy website when check-in begins,” the statement said.

According to the government, Saskatchewan officials are working with partners in Warsaw to determine the specific needs of evacuees prior to the flight leaving Poland, which “may include things like the availability of translators to help Ukrainians complete required customs, the ArriveCAN app and more.”

“We will provide assistance as needed, which may include having Saskatchewan officials in Warsaw prior to the flight.”

Harrison indicated in his interview last week that the government continues to have “longer-term engagement discussions on this file” and will continue to work directly with the Ukrainian government on how Saskatchewan can continue to to help.

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

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

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

Desnytska says 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 “great 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.

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