Canadians desperately trying to get family out of hard hit Ukrainian cities

By Alex Karpa

Thursday marks six weeks since Russia began its war on Ukraine, and as cities lay in ruins and the death toll continues to climb, many families abroad, including in Canada, are watching their loved ones flee west into neighbouring countries.

Susan Yamchuk and her husband Dmytro have been trying to get members of their family to Canada. Dmytro’s aunt Olena and cousin Katya have safely escaped Ukraine and are now in Poland.

Susan Yamchuk

Susan Yamchuk’s husband Dmytr’s aunt Olena on the right, and cousin Katya on the left. (Photo Courtesy: Susan Yamchuk.)

“We want them to come to Canada and we are working hard for them to come to Canada,” explained Susan Yamchuk. “It’s been a few weeks and just waiting and hoping that we can get them here soon.”

But Yamchuk’s Uncle and grandmother are stuck in Mykolaiv, a city that has seen heavy shelling and destruction from Russian attacks.

Susan Yamchuk

Susan Yamchuk. (Photo: CityNews)

“Especially with our uncle and grandma, she can’t travel with her health conditions. It just would be dangerous for her. I hope for the best, but it’s a very scary situation and it doesn’t seem like it is improving at all,” explained Yamchuk.


With the Russians advancing towards the port city, Yamchuk says she feels helpless watching what is going on and she and her husband have feared the worst. What is in their control is helping out Olena and Katya who are living with a family friend in Poland at the moment. They want to bring them to Winnipeg, but say the process is ridiculous.

“I would love it if we could get them here and then work on the application and finalize all the information. They could get the fingerprints here. I know there are other reasons for not doing that right now, but it’s frustrating.”

The Canadian government considered visa-free entries for Ukrainians, but that process was rejected. Instead, Ukrainians need to provide multiple documents and wait for immigration authorities in Canada to grant them entry. In Yamchuk’s case, her family doesn’t have a passport, just their national Ukrainian ID and with embassies in Ukraine closed, she says it’s been a complete hassle.

“They really have to start from the beginning now. They (Immigration website) state on there are exceptions, but you need to provide a letter to explain the situation, and it is up to the immigration officer to determine whether or not they will proceed with it. Their application is on hold because of the biometrics.”

Yamchuk says Olena and Katya don’t have an appointment with the immigration officer until the end of April. She says she wishes the Canadian government would allow refugees to come to Canada and then confirm documents here, instead of waiting in European countries that are in direct threat of Russia.

“People don’t have the required passports, and not many people do in Ukraine because documents get destroyed, they don’t have it, etc. They have to be a little more accommodating in this situation.”

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