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Effort underway to evacuate Southern Alberta resident's Ukrainian relatives

As the war in Ukraine rages, Peter Premachuk, who lives in Central Alberta, has discovered a relative there he didn’t know he had. Now he’s trying to bring her and several other family members over to Canada. 

OLDS, ALTA — As the war in Ukraine rages, Olds resident Peter Premachuk has discovered a relative there he didn’t know he had. Now he’s trying to bring her and several other family members over to Canada. 

A couple of weeks after the invasion began, Premachuk saw a Facebook post from one of his first cousins saying she had contacted relatives in the family’s home village in Ukraine and that they were all OK. 

That piqued Premachuk’s interest, so he contacted his cousin and that led to meeting his fourth cousin – Sonia – through Facebook. They've been messaging each other ever since.  

It meant getting up at 2 a.m., but it was worth it. 

Premachuk found out that Sonia had always wanted to come to Canada, and she discovered that he’d always thought of visiting the family home in the little village of Troyanovka in northwest Ukraine.

The war really hit home to Sonia and her family when the Russians bombed an airport and troop training ground in Western Ukraine, about 80 kilometres from where they live.  

"I guess an hour or two after the bomb went off, the soldiers were doing some sort of exercises and firing off a few guns and nobody knew in the village," Premachuk said during an interview. 

“They heard of the bombs and then an hour or so later they heard guns going off and that really freaked them out until finally word got through and ‘no, no, it’s our guys and they’re just practising."

Sonia sent Premachuk many photos. One was a collage of other photos they’d received from relatives over the years.

Premachuk spotted photos of himself and his dad in that grouping. Another photo sent depicted the family home in Ukraine. 

“Sonia sent me a picture of the house that is still there, and it’s got this original wood, big wood-fired stove and it’s their kitchen and bathroom and stove and it still sits on their property where the family lives,” he said. 

"In our video call this morning they were making perogies in the same kitchen my Ukrainian grandparents would have been in before coming to Canada using the same wood fired oven," he said in a later email. "I am sure it has had a few repairs and upgrades in the last 100 years."

“It was kinda neat because I always wanted to go back to the home village. I knew the name of it. I used to look at it on Google.” 

“I've always had sort of an affinity for family and family ties and things like that and Ukrainians because I’m Ukrainian, Scottish, French and Ojibway, so I’m a real Canadian, right? And I’ve met people on the Metis side and the French side and the Ukrainian side. I’m half Ukrainian, so that’s my strongest,” he said. 

Premachuk is now working with his relatives to bring Sonia, her husband and their young daughter, as well as Sonia's sister and her husband and their children over safely to Canada – at least for a couple of years, if not permanently. 

The children range in age from 16 months to four years old. 

If all goes well, Premachuk is hoping Sonia and other family members will arrive here around the beginning of May.

Premachuk, who runs a tax business joked that would be best, because he’s in the middle of the very busy tax season. 

Sonia’s husband, who’s been working in Poland building houses, was initially a bit leery of coming to Canada, but Premachuk said he too is now warming to the idea. 

Initially Sonia was worried because her daughter doesn’t have a passport, just a birth certificate, but Premachuk is confident that’s a hurdle that can be overcome. 

He was encouraged by the federal government’s announcement of changes to speed up immigration for Ukrainian refugees. Also, a passport processing office opened up near where Sonia lives in Ukraine. 

Premachuk said through family and friends, about $8,000 had been raised in just three days to help bring the relatives to Canada.  

He’s heard the process of bringing the family members over and settling them in might cost a total of $60,000, but he’s not certain what the final figure will be.  

Premachuk has set up an email address for anyone who wants to donate to the cause or to obtain more information. It’s soniatocanada@gmail.com.