The purpose of their trip: To say thanks for the support that Canadians are giving to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s ongoing invasion.
The trio arrived at Kelowna International Airport on Tuesday afternoon and was greeted by members of the Lake Country Alliance Church, which is among the local organizations that’s sent thousands of dollars to help the plight of Ukrainians.
“You can use this money for yourself. You probably have your own needs and desires and stuff like that, but you take something that is important for you, and you give it to Ukraine,” said Dmitry Bodyu, a pastor from Ukraine.
He added, “you don’t experience what is going on up there. But you really, when you give something, you put your heart where your money is or your help is.”
Bodyu is from the Russian-occupied southeastern city of Melitopol, and he knows firsthand the horrors of war.
He says he was helping his fellow Ukrainians when he was arrested by Russian officials about a month into the war and held captive.
“They held me for eight days and then they released me,” he said. “There were a lot of people praying about me. I never knew about this.”
Bodyu says the Russians never touched him, unlike others they were also holding captive.
“They were beating up the other people … always somebody screaming and stuff like that. So it was not a very good sound to hear, all day long,” Bodyu said.
He eventually managed to escape to Poland, a country that has taken in some four million Ukrainian refugees.
Also making the trip was Jonasz Topilolo, a Polish businessman.
Speaking in Polish, Topilolo said Poland wants to help Ukraine and be a friend.
Polish pastor Krsysztof Zareba says his fellow countrymen and women have opened their hearts and homes to displaced Ukrainians.
Noting that he’s housing nine refugees, Zareba added that without Canadian help, including assistance from Okanagan residents, they wouldn’t be able to offer the level of assistance that they’re currently able to.
Topilolo added that in addition to helping Ukrainian refugees with shelter, food and clothing, they want to go deeper and offer hope.
The Lake Country Alliance Church is holding a free public event on Thursday evening, where all three men will share stories from being in Ukraine and Poland.
The event, at 12025 Oceola Road, starts at 7 p.m.