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Roman Lakhnyuk in Edmonton.Handout

The organizers: Roman Lakhnyuk and Bruce Callow

The pitch: Raising money to help Ukrainian refugees come to Canada

Shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February, Roman Lakhnyuk headed to Poland to help his sister and her two children leave Kyiv and come to Canada. Mr. Lakhnyuk, 23, had moved to Edmonton 10 years ago with his parents, but his sister stayed in Ukraine. Now she and her children were among the millions of refugees seeking shelter.

It took several weeks to get her out of the country and secure a visa. In the meantime Mr. Lakhnyuk began volunteering as a translator at a couple of refugee centres in Warsaw. He soon met another Canadian volunteer, Bruce Callow, and they began talking about the Ukrainians they’d met who had received Canadian visas but couldn’t afford the airfare. They decided to find a way to help and they started out by matching one donor with two refugees. From there they began fundraising to pay for more flights and so far they have helped 30 refugees come to Canada.

Earlier this month, they held a fundraising concert in Calgary that featured several Ukrainian-Canadian musicians. The event raised $12,000, and the money will go toward funding more flights and covering the cost of winter supplies for people in Ukraine.

Mr. Lakhnyuk said the pair plan to keep raising as much money as possible. For now, he’s happy that his family is together for the first time in a decade and that his sister is safe. He added that when he was in Poland he was inspired by the number of people who offered to help. “People who hadn’t heard my story went out of their way to offer me help,” he recalled. “So for me, I had to pay their generosity forward in multiples.”