Ukraine child evacuees with Saskatoon connection arrive safely in Poland

Nashi says the 17 girls who fled from their home north of Lviv, Ukraine, safely arrived in Poland over the weekend after spending 20 hours on a bus. NASHI / Supplied

After spending 20 hours on a bus fleeing war in Ukraine, 17 vulnerable girls and their caregivers have safely made it to Poland, according to NASHI, a Saskatoon charity.

Nashi opened Maple Leaf House in 2015, offering a safe place in western Ukraine for girls escaping abuse and human trafficking. The home, north of Lviv, had to be evacuated following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Read more: Vulnerable girls evacuating Ukraine, Saskatoon charity awaiting word on their safety

Andrew Allsopp, Nashi vice-president, said the girls arrived on Sunday, but their location in Poland is being kept under wraps to ensure their protection.

“Traffickers are having a heyday over there right now, snagging up loose children that may get separated from their guardians,” Allsopp said. “Even their departure was in the middle of the night.”

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The girls, who range from six to 17 years old, are being hosted by a church in a small Polish town about three hours from the border with Ukraine, Allsopp said.

Read more: Russia’s war on Ukraine has ‘shattered peace in Europe,’ NATO leader says

The surrounding community has provided necessities like food and clothing.

“They’re actually getting pretty spoiled staying there,” Allsopp said with a smile.

Click to play video: 'Growing number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Poland' Growing number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Poland
Growing number of Ukrainians seeking refuge in Poland – Mar 3, 2022

There’s no indication of how long the girls will be allowed to stay in Poland. Allsopp previously told Global News the ideal situation would be for the Russia-Ukraine conflict to end, allowing the girls to return to their home at Maple Leaf House.

Nashi has submitted visa applications for the group, but it remains unclear when or if they might come to Saskatoon.

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Read more: Saskatchewan prepared to accept large number of Ukrainian refugees

On Tuesday, the Saskatchewan government announced $335,000 and a partnership with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress of Saskatchewan to help displaced Ukrainians resettle in the province.

“The Government of Saskatchewan stands with those around the world condemning the unprovoked attack of Ukraine by Russia, and we have informed the federal government of our readiness to receive an unlimited number of displaced families fleeing Ukraine,” said Immigration and Career Training Minister Jeremy Harrison in a news release.

Premier Scott Moe has said a number has not been attached to what his government will invest in supporting Ukrainians fleeing the conflict and coming to Saskatchewan.

— with files from Dave Giles

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