A Calgary woman is now looking after her sister’s children after her sister returned to Ukraine to fight for her country.
Elena Burden left Calgary for Warsaw, Poland on March 1. She met with her sister Tatyana Kaliuzhna at the Polish/Ukrainian border.
Burden only saw her sister for a few minutes before she turned around and crossed the border again.
“She kissed the kids and hugged them and walked away,” Burden said from her hotel room in Warsaw on Monday.
“She said, ‘I can give you my kids because I trust you. You can take care of them. I will, but I will go back to Ukraine.'”
Kaliuzhna returned to Kryvyi Rih in southern Ukraine to be with her husband. Burden said her sister is prepared to pick up a gun and defend her home.
“I could say nothing to her. I have tried. Especially when she was here in Poland and safe. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Stay here. I will take care of you and the kids.’ She said no. ‘Don’t say to me anything. I have made my decision,'” Burden said.
Burden remains at a hotel in Warsaw with her eight-year-old nephew, 10-year-old niece, sister-in-law Yana Kaliuzhna and her daughter.
Burden said Yana is devastated to leave behind her husband. His advice was to stay strong and look out for their little girl.
Burden reluctantly accepts her sister’s decision. She admits she would do the same.
“They are fighting for their homeland. They are fighting for freedom. She said if her husband does fall, she will take the gun and she will go. I know her. She is my sister and we are pretty much the same temperament,” Burden said.
Her focus now is on the children who have been told they’re going on a vacation to Canada.
“All that I can do is save the kids and give them a life without bomb shelters and without air sirens,” Burden said.
Burden hopes to be back in Calgary by the end of the week, along with her nephew, nieces and sister-in-law.
“I want to give those kids a better life so they can forget about this at least for a little bit,” Burden said.