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Ukrainian family has arrived in Estevan after fleeing country early in the war

The Nedozhdii family – consisting of Volodymyr, his wife Yevheniia, their daughter Karyna and their son Rostyslav – arrived in the community on April 9.

ESTEVAN - A family of Ukrainians has a new life in Estevan since relocating to the Energy City earlier this month.

The Nedozhdii family – consisting of Volodymyr, his wife Yevheniia, their daughter Karyna and their son Rostyslav – arrived in the community on April 9.

Josh Biggs, who was part of the effort to bring the Nedozhdii family to Canada, said they left Ukraine on March 15. They stayed in a hotel in Warsaw until their visa was approved on April 5. Their flights were booked from Warsaw to Toronto, and then Toronto to Regina.

“When the war broke out, I reached out to a friend of mine, Brian Petersen, who works at Redhead Equipment, because I knew he had a few new Canadians who worked there,” said Biggs.

He asked Petersen to reach out to the Ukrainians he knew to see if they had friends or family members who wanted to seek refuge in Canada.

“You could tell they’ve been hurting pretty hard from everything that was happening,” said Petersen.

Oleksandr Sych, who works at Redhead Equipment, had some relatives looking to come to Canada.

“He said the day before his cousin had called and said that they wanted to come over,” said Petersen. “I think that was about the time Russia had attacked that nuclear power station and there was a fire in it. So, they were pretty frightened obviously.”

At that time, Volodymyr Nedozhdii expressed his desire to come to Canada at any cost. 

The Nedozhdii family resided in a rural community about 100 kilometres east of Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine.

“I believe an airport about 10 miles away from them was one of the Russian targets, so I believe they were within earshot of bombs and that kind of thing,” said Biggs.  “So they needed to seek refuge, and through a translator, the father has said that when Alex reached out to him, at that moment, his … 15-year-old daughter was stocking away food and water into their root cellar.”

The family started preparations so they could flee to Poland. The Canadian embassy in Warsaw has a lineup of several hundred people at all times, Biggs said.

“When I was booking their flights, I asked Alex to inquire about what they have for baggage. I was expecting they would have a big suitcase each and maybe a couple of boxes, but they left with three suitcases, and then when they got to Regina Airport, I saw they had two medium-sized suitcases and one carry-on,” said Biggs. “It’s pretty hard to grapple for a privileged Canadian like me.”

After each step, they felt more confident, and seeing them come down the stairs resulted in “a big sigh of relief,” Biggs said.

When they picked up the family at the Regina International Airport, it was one of the most emotional moments of Biggs’ life. During the interview with the Mercury, he became emotional talking about seeing them in person for the first time.

“It’s been over a month since we started on this process and working on it and working through the details, and at every step … nothing was for sure, whether it was first getting them out of Ukraine, which was the first challenge, and then the next challenge was getting their visas approved,” said Biggs.

Biggs and members of his family were joined by Petersen and Sych at the airport.

“The paperwork was crazy,” said Petersen. “It was 80 or 100 hours into probably getting them over here. There were lots of roadblocks along the way, of course, so a month later it was pretty crazy that they were here.”

Petersen said the Nedozhdii family were very brave to leave on almost a moment’s notice and trust a total stranger.

“They’re very grateful and very upbeat. Just a great family, actually,” Petersen said.

The family went into quarantine because their COVID-19 vaccinations aren’t recognized in Canada, and they speak minimal English, but they’re eager to learn the language and want to get to work.

They are in good spirits as they adjust to life in Canada and they’re eager to explore their new home. They are residing in a fully-furnished apartment and the kids will be attending school in Estevan.

“They’re fabulous people and I’m thrilled to have them in the community,” said Biggs.

Petersen said the Ukrainians who have come to work for Redhead Equipment are some of the best workers the business has had, and they’re among the best mechanics and great people who are an asset for the community.

The community has been great as well, Petersen said, with local residents and businesses stepping forward with money and items needed to help the family adjust to life in Canada.

Biggs hopes to see other Ukrainian families come to Estevan. He noted there is an agency named the Sunflower Network bringing people to the province, but in this instance, they saw an urgency in getting the family here, so he and Petersen handled the process.

Petersen noted the Sunflower Network – named for the official flower of Ukraine – is a charity that people can support to help Ukrainians come to Saskatchewan. And while they didn’t go that route, because they have the resources to bring a family to Estevan on their own, Petersen said it’s a great way if people want to help those in Ukraine.  

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