Second federal flight carrying Ukrainians to Canada lands in Montreal

Virginie Ann, The Canadian Press

Posted Sunday, May 29, 2022 6:46 a.m. EDT

Last updated Sunday, May 29, 2022 at 7:24 p.m. EDT

MONTREAL – Dozens of well-wishers carrying balloons and flowers filled a Montreal airport on Sunday to welcome hundreds of Ukrainians fleeing war in their home country and ready to start rebuilding their lives in Canada.

The second of three flights chartered by the federal government landed shortly before 11 a.m. at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport with 306 refugees and more than 20 animals on board. Passengers approved for emergency travel to Canada landed just seven days after the first such flight landed in Winnipeg, and days before the last plane was due to arrive in Halifax on June 2 .

While some newcomers rushed emotionally into the arms of their loved ones shortly after disembarking on Sunday, others made the trip from Warsaw, Poland, unsure of what to expect in Montreal.

Alina Shuvalova fled her home in Ukraine’s Donbass region, a heavily bombed hotspot for much of the three-month war with Russia.

She said she had no relatives in Montreal and would be staying at the hotel with her one-year-old baby.

“It’s (a) very difficult situation near my city,” Shuvalova said on Sunday. “My parents call me because they hear shelling every day and I want to save my baby,” she said. “I’m very grateful for this trip and to have arrived here.”

Yuriy Topolnytsky and his mother had been waiting for hours for their family members to arrive.

“This war took good people,” Topolnystky said. “My aunt’s son, he’s shaking from the sirens and he’s already traumatized. Even when he was waiting for the visa in Poland, he was so relieved…there was no siren.

“He’s a smart guy, he has a lot of opportunities here, maybe he will become the next Prime Minister of Canada – who knows.”

Orysia Krucko of the Ukrainian-Canadian Council, one of Quebec’s immigration ministry partners in supporting the settlement of Ukrainians in the city, said people without host families would be relocated to hotels in Montreal.

“We are happy with this second flight,” said Krucko. “But we have to remember that this is a tragedy. These are people coming from a country at war.

The federal government has already taken in thousands of Ukrainians since the first attack by Russian forces in late February.

According to federal government data, Canada has received just over 259,000 applications for temporary residence as of May 25, of which 120,668 have been approved. The Newfoundland and Labrador government also chartered a flight earlier this month that brought 166 Ukrainians to the province.

Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly joined Marie-France Lalonde, Parliamentary Secretary to Quebec Immigration Minister and Labor Minister Jean Boulet, on Sunday to welcome the newcomers.

“What we are seeing is the impact of an illegal and unjustifiable war,” Joly said emotionally at a press conference. “These people never thought they would have to go across the Atlantic to take refuge.”

Joly acknowledged Canada could do better when asked why it took nearly 100 days after the war began to transport refugees to safety. She said Ottawa is ready to offer financial assistance to newcomers starting June 2.

“These people have been through hell…all are traumatized by what happened. So we must continue to welcome and support them,” she said.

Vlada Polishchuk was all smiles as she held a traditional cake at the airport on Sunday. His family, however, were not among the new arrivals.

“We offered my family to fly them here, but everyone refused,” Polishchuk said. “They all feel like it’s their home, why would they leave it?” »

Polishchuk, who has lived in Montreal for seven years, said she even considered returning home to support her loved ones.

“But I see that from here I can be even more helpful even though there were a few stages where I felt so helpless watching what’s going on and you’re here in Canada, trying to living your life is two different worlds.”

“But being here is the community and the support, it’s something that helps me stand still and make a difference.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 29, 2022.

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