Chance airport encounter with Vancouver man sparks food-aid network to Ukraine

Click to play video: 'A Ukrainian refugee’s encounter with a Vancouver man is serendipitous'
A Ukrainian refugee’s encounter with a Vancouver man is serendipitous
Chance encounters may seem random. But for a pregnant Ukrainian refugee escaping to B.C, meeting a Vancouver man at the airport appears meant to be. Jay Durant reports in This is BC – May 29, 2022

A Ukrainian woman who escaped to Vancouver in the midst of the Russian invasion of her home country has teamed up with a local man to organize a complex delivery network to get food to people in the war-torn country.

Twice a day Olena manages to video chat with her daughters Leeza and Katya who are staying with family in Prague.

It’s a chance for the family to stay connected and for the girls to see their new baby brother Richard, who was born in Vancouver just over a month ago.

With her pregnancy nearly at full-term and concerned about the wait time for newborn documents in the Czech Republic, she booked a flight to B.C. to stay with a distant contact. But things changed when she met a Vancouver man at the airport.

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“She said, ‘Don’t tell the airline but I’m 8-and-a-half months pregnant, I need to get to Canada to have my baby,” Peter Lukomskyj told Global’s This is BC.

Lukomskyj, whose parents are Ukrainian, was returning home after travelling there to help in the early stages of the Russian invasion, buying luggage for refugees and providing transportation at the Polish border.

Click to play video: 'This is BC: Former Syrian refugee stuck in airport makes a difference in new community'
This is BC: Former Syrian refugee stuck in airport makes a difference in new community

Now, with Olena staying at his house, they’ve created a delivery network getting food to many neglected villages that are in desperate need.

“All the markets are destroyed, grocery stories destroyed,” Olena said. “That’s why they need help.”

Powered by Lukomskyj’s fundraising, Olena’s colleagues back home are buying supplies at bulk food stores and packaging them with the message “Help from Canada” and delivering them to town squares.

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“These are villages where people had lost almost everything they had,” Lukomskyj said.

Olena, Richard and her husband, who came to Vancouver in time for the birth, will be travelling to Prague to reunite the family, with plans to one day return to Ukraine. But for now, everyone is safe. And Peter is now Richard’s godfather.

“I’m really honoured to be part of their family in a symbolic way,” he said.

“It’s like a miracle for me and my family also,” Olena said. “I think this story is unbelievable, really unbelievable”

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