‘We were lucky to get on this flight’: Ukrainians arrive in Edmonton on donated plane

Dozens of Ukrainians who fled the war in their home country arrived in Edmonton Monday night.

The Polish Airlines LOT Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight, arranged by former MLA Thomas Lukaszuk and former Premier Ed Stelmach, arrived at the Edmonton International Airport just before 7 p.m.

About 30 Alberta families will host more than 60 Ukrainians. Several more were expected to come on this plane, but they were not able to get a visa at the Canadian embassy in Warsaw on time.

“It’s bittersweet,” Ivan Lypovyk told CTV News Edmonton. He’s hosting five of the people on the plane, but another few he was expecting stayed behind in the Polish capital.

“It’s so stressful,” he added. “The families who left their loved ones in Ukraine fighting for Ukraine, they’re mothers with kids, they have to flee through the border.”

Valentina Gogvozd is one of those mothers. She took a quick decision and “jumped in the car” toward the Polish border with her six- and nine-year-old sons.

“We were lucky to get on this flight,” said Gogvozd’s brother-in-law, Andrii Nabutovskyi, who lives in Red Deer.

“She’s very emotional and very thankful.”

DONATED PLANE

Polish Airlines LOT donated the plane to the former politicians for one round trip to fly Ukrainians to Edmonton and bring back humanitarian aid supplies to Warsaw, Poland.

Canadians donated more than $20 million to the cause, Lukaszuk said.

“All we really wanted to do is send a package of badly needed goods to Ukraine by courier but Canadians responded, businesses and individuals. Next thing you knew, we had a full warehouse of some very valuable stuff that was very time sensitive to deliver,” the former MLA said.

“This airplane arrives as a passenger airplane but leaves as a cargo airplane. Every square inch of that plane will be filled with priority items. We have received a lot of medical diagnostic equipment. We have received some really, really important medications, surgical equipment, and very important firefighting equipment. Equipment that’s used for extricating individuals from under collapsed buildings.”

The plane will leave for Warsaw Tuesday afternoon. From there, truck drivers will deliver the goods to Ukraine.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Joe Scarpelli and Sean Amato

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