‘The air jets were flying in the sky’: Edmonton family opens their home to host Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion

In the Panas household, a card game is the universal language connecting a family fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

The Panas family, who have connections in Ukraine, opened their Edmonton home to Volodymyr Bril and his mother, Iryna.

“It’s been great,” said Alex Panas.

Alex’s mother, Marni, learned the game Durak, meaning fool in Ukrainian, when she was four years old from her Baba.

“For us to get together and to all know the same card game,” Marni said, “it’s just been so fun. We have a lot of laughs. As the world around us has been really hard to watch, it’s been nice to connect and to find laughter and joy in these special moments.”

The Brils arrived in Edmonton last Friday, after waiting in Warsaw, Poland, for approval from the Canadian government to travel.

They fled from Ternopil, in western Ukraine, in late March.

“The air jets were flying in the sky all the time,” Volodymyr told CTV News Edmonton. “People were scared, stressed, and it’s difficult to explain because it’s senseless.”

“There were bombs in our city at the airport,” he added. “We have an army base located in our city. There were attacks all the time of different missiles, rockets, thereā€¦ We saw a few times rockets flying in the air.”

Volodymyr said the decision to leave was difficult, as they were hosting refugees from Kharkiv, and would have to leave their jobs behind.

“We had some much stress,” he explained. “We were spending all of our days in front of the television and the internet reading the news about our army and the fights in Ukraine.”

After continuing Ukrainian traditions of sharing an Easter meal and going to church to get Easter baskets blessed, the Brils are now settling in to make Edmonton their temporary home, including searching for jobs.

“We made the decision to come to Canada to have at least some time to recover,” Volodymyr said.

“We are happier. We cannot be happy already,” he added. “I think we will be (fully) happy when Ukraine wins this war.” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jessica Robb

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