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FLIGHT TO SAFETY: 28 Ukrainian refugees united with Canadian relatives

Written by Scott Laurie

A relief flight united 28 Ukrainian refugees with relatives in Canada on Sunday on a private flight that landed at Pearson organized by a faith group.

“We are at a fresh start in Canada,” said Olha Koval just minutes after the flight landed and her family cleared customs. “We plan to work here because we will stay maybe for a year or two or three. It depends on the situation in Ukraine.”

Koval arrived with her husband, Roman, and her three sons, Oleh, 11, Taras, 7, and Yurii, 3.

Sunday’s first refugee flight by Samaritan’s Purse Canada — a Christian relief group — has been months in the making.

The organization has dispatched 13 flights carrying more than 300 tonnes of relief supplies to Ukraine and surrounding countries.

“We had all these folks from Ukraine who had approvals to come to Canada that were in Poland but they just couldn’t afford or had no way to get here,” said Frank King before helping the new arrivals once they disembarked.

“We thought, let’s just make this a two-way relief trip and bring all these folks back to Canada so that they can be connected with their relatives.”

Nataliya Sobetca was onboard and is eight months pregnant.

She arrived with her 11-year-old son and her husband.

“It’s a great mercy. It was really hard to organize everything,” she said of making the journey from Ukraine to Poland to then on to Canada.

“When we were trying to organize tickets from Warsaw, Poland. It was always packed. I’m so grateful”

Sobetca was examined by two nurses with the aid group — who had recently returned from four weeks in Ukraine.

“What we ended up seeing was a lot of chronic conditions exacerbated by war,” said Marcella Veenman-Mulder. “We are also starting to see a lot of psychological trauma.”Kim Wiebe also spent a month in the war-ravaged country.

“It wasn’t overly dramatic. No bombs falling on our heads. It was more about, we need to treat somebody’s high blood pressure, or somebody has an injury or illness and we would just help them,” she said.

Help from her organization has opened the door to 28 refugees who had difficulty finding a flight out.

But a flight eventually found them.

“When they told us, it was very surprising for us. And we are very grateful for this help. It’s amazing, the organization and the support was great. Thank you,” said Koval.

“I couldn’t believe it. I honestly couldn’t believe that people could help us so much.”

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