Winnipeg: First of three Ukrainian refugee charters arrive

WINNIPEG — The first of three charter flights carrying Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion landed in Manitoba on Monday afternoon.

The flight landed at Winnipeg Richardson International Airport. Ksenia Zinenko left the airport on Monday evening after a nine-hour flight from Poland to the capital of Manitoba.

The 30-year-old man is one of about 300 Ukrainians who, on behalf of the federal government, had to bring people fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine to Canada.

“Very tired,” Ms. Zinenko replied when asked how she felt after arriving in Winnipeg. “But the Canadians are very excited to meet us.”

Ms Zinenko was traveling with eight other family members, including her mother, sister and son. She says her father and brother had to stay in Nikolaev, a city in southern Ukraine, to fight in the army.

The family wanted to get as far away from Russia as possible and did not want to stay in Europe, so they decided to move to Canada, the mother of the family explained. “It’s hard, but we have no choice,” she said.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Sean Fraser said the three flights are to help bring about 900 Ukrainians who are allowed emergency stays in Canada.

The flight from Warsaw to Winnipeg landed at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport around 3:45 pm. It was the first of three charter flights to Canadian cities.

The second flight of the aircraft will fly to Montreal from Poland on May 29, and the third to Halifax on June 2.

emotional day

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, along with Manitoba Prime Minister Heather Stefanson, welcomed Ukrainians on Monday. They boarded the plane after it landed and were greeted with cheers and applause on board.

Manitoba MPs Dan Vandal, Jim Carr and Kevin Lamouret were also ready to welcome them.

Ms Freeland greeted in Ukrainian over the aircraft’s intercom system, while Ms Stefanson thanked those on board for making Manitoba and Canada their “home away from home.”

“We want you to know that we welcome you with open arms and an open heart (…) we will do our best to make your stay a welcome one,” said Ms Stefanson.

The newcomers had another opportunity to speak with the two leaders as they exited the plane and collected their luggage.

At one point, Minister Freeland got emotional before taking a picture with the woman’s family.

“It was a very emotional day,” Ms Freeland later told reporters. They are here to hide, but what they really want is for Ukraine to win the war.”

Dogs, cats and even a hamster have joined their owners in flying over 7,000 kilometers.

Spectators and relatives greeted the new arrivals as they made their way to the airport.

family reunification

Anastasia Seleznova patiently waited with a bouquet of flowers for her cousin, whom she helped register for Canada. She says her cousin was put on a waiting list and they were told just three days before she would fly.

“We thought it would (happen), so we just hoped that we would succeed (work), and it finally happened,” Ms. Seleznova said.

“In these difficult times and when it’s dark around you, you just try to keep at least a glimmer of hope,” she says.

This was not the first time Ms. Seleznova had helped a family member escape. She met her nine-year-old sister in Poland in mid-March to bring her to Winnipeg to stay with her.

Manitoba said the refugees would be taken to the regional Ukrainian refugee reception center for assistance upon arrival.

Approximately three hours after her arrival, Ms. Zinenko boarded a bus that took her and her family to the regional reception center. She was already thinking about the idea of ​​a house.

“We want (to leave), but we don’t know when the war (will stop). Now we stay here (…) and live here. We don’t know what will happen in the future.”

The Canadian government has already allowed the arrival of thousands of Ukrainians since the first attack by Russian military forces in late February.

Charter flights, in addition to commercial options subsidized from a special fund, are available to Ukrainians fleeing the war.

Note to readers: A previous issue reported that Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said the three flights were to help bring about 90,000 Ukrainians who are allowed to make an emergency trip to Canada. Actually around 900.

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