By Touria Izri
As Sonia Masseau keeps in touch with people still on the ground in Ukraine, the air raid siren is an all too familiar sound as it interrupts her Zoom video call with Ukrainian couple Nataliia and Dmytro Laptiev.
“Will you go to the basement?” asks Masseau.
“No, we’ll stay home, we have no bomb shelter,” Nataliia responds.
Through Zoom calls and Facebook messages, Masseau keeps in touch with Ukrainians like the Laptievs whom she met on a three-week humanitarian mission to the war zone.
“I know when you see these images on TV you feel helpless, but when you help them, they see the difference,” she told CTV News on Wednesday.
Masseau is used to making a difference. She works for the non-profit organization Action Nouvelle Vie in Longueuil that collects and distributes donations to Quebec’s most vulnerable.
Masseau wanted to extend a helping hand further to countries in crisis so she joined the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse a year-and-a-half ago.
She underwent security training and waited for the moment she would be needed. That moment came last month.
“War was declared in Ukraine February 23,” said Masseau. “I was called February 24.”
Masseau boarded a flight for Krakow and began helping some of the thousands of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland. One family she met stuck with her.
“The mother was crying and I said, ‘Can I help you?’ and she said, ‘I just left my father and I don’t know if I’m going to see him again,’” recalled Masseau. She said thousands of other Ukrainian women are in the same position.
Masseau and other volunteers with Samaritan’s Purse eventually crossed the border into the Ukrainian city of Lviv, a major evacuation point for people fleeing the frontlines.
She helped organize a convoy of mini buses that delivered aid to Ukrainian cities like Poltava, which is struggling to keep up with an influx of displaced people arriving at its doorstep.
The Laptievs run a shelter in Poltava, which works with Samaritan’s Fund.
“Empty food, empty fridges, empty shelves,” said Nataliia.
The delivery Masseau helped distribute fed desperate Ukrainians in that city. “It was the answer and it was thanks to [Masseau],” said Nataliia.
Masseau said she’s ready to go back to Ukraine and is just waiting for the phone call.
“I was glad just to be there to help those people because they’re so courageous.”