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Edmonton man heading overseas to help his family fleeing Ukraine war

An Edmonton man is heading to Poland in hopes of helping bring his sister and her children to Canada, as they flee the war in Ukraine.

Roman Lahknyuk, 22, is heading to Poland this Sunday where he aims to meet his sister Olesia as well as his young niece and nephew. The three are still currently in the Ukraine.

“It’s really difficult for my family,” Lahknyuk said. “Just two months ago, I was in Kyiv with my family, for the first time in ten years — reuniting.

“(Then) we leave — a month later, the war breaks out, my sister has to escape our home, to western Ukraine to escape the aggression, (and) now going to Poland,” he said.

Roman Lahknyuk (second from left), along with his sister Olesia (far left) and other family members in Kyiv, Ukraine, in December 2021.

Supplied to Global News

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Lahknyuk said he purchased bus tickets for his sister and her two children (aged four and nine) that should allow them to cross the Ukrainian border into the Polish city of Warsaw. Olesia’s husband will remain in Ukraine to fight in the war.

“She’s leaving her home — her entire life — with two children with just a small suitcase,” Lahknyuk said.

“My first goal is to help her emotionally, but then to also help her get to a safe place so she can have a future for her children.”

“When I arrive in Poland, my first focus is to start applying for refugee programs. There’s one (that’s) supposed to open up in Canada, (but) it hasn’t opened yet.”

The new program, called the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel, is set to launch in the next few weeks.

Through that program, will be no limit to how many refugees can apply and pending a background check and security screening — Ukrainians could stay at least two years in Canada.

Read more:

Canada to create new program to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russian invasion

Lahknyuk said he is hopeful his family will be able to get to Poland, but they are feeling extreme stress and uncertainty over the situation.

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“At this time, you never know. There’s no safe method,” he said. “It’s just, there’s the best-case scenario and the worst-case scenarios.”

Mother reunites with daughter in Edmonton after fleeing Ukraine

Mother reunites with daughter in Edmonton after fleeing Ukraine

Lahknyuk has also been working with family friend Janice Krissa-Moore to help gather supplies to bring along.

“We’re putting together some suitcases,” said Krissa-Moore. “(Refugees) can only take a small bag with them across the (Ukraine-Poland) border.”

Krissa-Moore has known the Lahknyuk family for nearly a decade, and last travelled to Ukraine to visit in 2018.

“You’re so worried, you feel helpless,” she said. “It’s just horrifying to watch, places that you’ve been and that you love being destroyed before your eyes.

“The anguish — talking to close family friends, it’s been really hard. We want to be there with them, and it’s just really so sad.”

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Lahknyuk is hoping to bring several other suitcases along to give to other families with Edmonton connections who have fled to Poland.

Donations of clothing, shoes and small toys for refugee children are being accepted until March 11. Donations can be dropped off until this Saturday in Edmonton at Wireless City at 5912 104 Street or at Eyecare Group at 10360 Jasper Avenue.

–With files from Eric Stober, Global News

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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