Ukrainian refugees coming to Alberta on plane that will return with aid

Dozens of Ukrainian refugees will arrive in Edmonton Monday on board a flight, arranged by two former Alberta politicians, that will then ferry emergency supplies back to Ukraine.

The final number of refugees isn’t yet confirmed, as eligible passengers are still being identified by Canadian and Polish officials in Warsaw, Thomas Lukaszuk said Sunday in an interview. He added that now there are around 100 who will be coming back, but more could be approved.

All the refugees will be greeted on their arrival by sponsor families — mostly relatives living in Alberta and Saskatchewan, said Lukaszuk, a former Conservative MLA in who worked with former Alberta premier Ed Stelmach and the Canadian Polish Historical Society to put the mission together.

“I need to do more than just watch and be empathetic,” Lukaszuk said of why he started this campaign. “Let’s call a few people and see if we can collect some badly needed goods to ship to Ukraine.”

Stelmach was Alberta’s first premier of Ukrainian descent and is a volunteer with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Alberta Provincial Council.

The plane, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, was donated by Polish Airlines LOT. As well, 50 tonnes of jet fuel was provided by Royal Dutch Shell and the Edmonton International Airport has waived all its fees, stated the news release.

“The bringing of refugees is extremely important and there’s a bit of a personal component for me because I walked off a plane as a refugee in Sydney, Nova Scotia in 1982 so I know exactly what they’re going through emotionally,” Lukaszuk said.

He added that he worked closely with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to arrange passage of refugees here.

Lukaszuk said that it’s “unprecedented” how quickly this all came together. He first spoke with Stelmach about starting something two weeks ago. Now, they have $20 million worth of supplies and donations, which includes the plane and fuel, and fees waived by various organizations.

Donations collected over the last week at Edmonton’s Polish Hall will be loaded aboard a donated Dreamliner that will return to Poland with aid for Ukrainian refugees. (Francois Joly/Radio-Canada)

Included are things like surgical equipment, diagnostic equipment, first aid supplies, pain medications, personal care products including diapers and sanitary napkins, outdoor survival equipment, new socks and underwear, walkers, walking canes and crutches.

Lukaszuk said they got so many supplies that the most important shipment will go first by plane and then the rest will be shipped by sea.

The flight is expected to land at 6:50 pm Monday.

Red Cross and the RCMP victim services unit will also be on hand to offer help if needed, Lukaszuk said.

He added that they would love to ship more supplies by sea to Ukraine when they can. There is beginning to be a shortage of food, which worries Lukaszuk.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia started on Feb. 24. Since then, it has devastated several Ukrainian cities, caused a major humanitarian crisis and displaced an estimated 10 million people, nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population.

Leave a Reply