On Monday afternoon, they were fast asleep, feeling the effects of jet lag on the back of flights to Vancouver from Poland, via Amsterdam.
When they woke up Tuesday, a Ukrainian family of four – a couple and their four-year-old twin boys – were preparing to start a new life in Richmond, after fleeing the Russian invasion of their homeland.
The family was one of the lucky ones, who managed to get out of the capital Kyiv not long after Vladimir Putin’s forces crossed the border in February.
For more than two months, they have been waiting patiently to find safe harbour in Canada, where they have several family members, including their cousin and Richmond resident, Sergey Khomenko, a former native of Kyiv himself.
Family managed to flee when bombing started
“They were all exhausted. They managed to get out as soon as the bombing started. They were very relieved to be here,” said Khomenko, who immigrated to Canada about 25 years ago.
He said he has managed to get the family into a one-bedroom apartment in his building, close to Lansdowne and Garden City roads.
Knowing that his cousins and nephews would be flying in with just a few basic possessions, Khomenko reached out on the Community of Richmond Facebook page to see if anyone could help the family.
Richmond residents shower Ukrainians with donations
“I only posted on the page yesterday…but oh my god, the response has been unbelievable,” said Khomenko.
“I’m speechless. I was just on there looking to buy some stuff cheaply for them. People have donated a scooter, a bike, soccer balls, games, toys, clothes, bedding.
“It’s so nice to see so many people care.”
Khomenko said his cousins have a visa and a work permit, but have a lot to get organized in order to start a new life.
“Hopefully it goes well,” he added.
“Who knows if they will stay or if they will ever be able to return to their home, if it is still there?