He was set to start flight school in Ukraine when it was invaded. Now his aviation dream has brought him to Calgary

On the day before Russia invaded his home country, Vladyslav Vitske was up in the air.

The 24-year-old from Ukraine was working as a flight attendant on that February day and was just a month away from starting his training to become a pilot, something he has been dreaming about since childhood.

Vitske now finds himself halfway around the world, in Calgary, among the more than 51,000 Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Canada during the war this year.

He’s in a new country, a new city, but he found the perfect host.

“I’m so fortunate because I created a post on Facebook to find a host in Canada and Jason replied to me. He’s a pilot also and I thought ‘wow, what a match’,” Vitske told CTV News.

For nearly a month, he’s been living with Jason Arthur, a pilot with STARS Air Ambulance in Calgary.

The connection couldn’t be a better fit; a man who has flown helicopters for nearly two decades is now helping out a young man who wants to fly.

“I look back to how I got started (in aviation) and I had a lot of people helping me along the way and I kind of wanted to pay it forward and return the favour,” said Arthur, who joined STARS in 2019 after spending time flying in the military and as a private pilot.

The flight school in Ukraine where Vitske was supposed to start his training at has been destroyed, but he sees new opportunity here in Canada. Arthur has shown him some of the aircraft and STARS hangar and Vitske was given a free flight studying guide to start learning.

“My final point is to become a pilot. I was (so) close to my dream, because my company offered to me to start at a flight school in Ukraine,” Vitske said.

“I just want to continue my aviation career. I want to develop myself.”

Vitske is doing his best to focus on learning in Calgary, but his mind is never far from what’s happening back in his country. Most of his family, including his girlfriend, is back in Ukraine and he talks to them every day.

“The war is not over for me at all,” he said. “I’m still a Ukrainian citizen and I (watch) the news every day and feel anxious about all the horrible news.”

Arthur has organized a GoFundMe for Vitske to try and help pay for flight school in Canada. He hopes to help his new roommate achieve what he was so close to starting before the war broke out.

“Not many people have had to live what he has gone through and continues to go through,” Arthur said.

“The goals and drive he has and the ambition and drive I’ve seen so far, he deserves the chance we all have and sometimes take for granted living in Canada.”

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