More than two dozen Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Canada after a prominent Evangelical charity transported them there over the weekend as part of what one displaced Ukrainian referred to as “God’s mercy flight.”
The North Carolina-based Samaritan’s Purse, which evangelist Franklin Graham heads, announced Sunday that it had airlifted 28 Ukrainian refugees from Poland to Toronto, Ontario, on its DC-8 aircraft.
In a statement posted on Twitter Sunday, Graham said all of the refugees have "relatives or loved ones to go to.”
“There are children of all ages, grandmothers, mothers — one of them is even 8 months pregnant,” he said. “God bless them — they have been through so much & had to leave behind everything except what they could carry.”
The arrival of the 28 Ukrainian refugees in Toronto comes nearly three months after Russia invaded the eastern European country, prompting the conflict that continues to this day.
In a statement shared with The Christian Post, Graham said, “We need to continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and do everything we can to help them.”
Samaritan’s Purse will likely continue to evacuate Ukrainian refugees out of the country every week for the foreseeable future. Samaritan’s Purse Vice President of Programs & Government Relations Ken Isaacs indicated that “a week from now, we’ll be bringing the second load back” as he addressed the first flight of Ukrainian refugees on the DC-8.
As Isaacs explained, the use of the aircraft to transport refugees is a departure from its usual purpose: “Every day with the DC-8, we bring over primarily medical supplies. The rest of the load could be non-food items such as hygiene supplies, temporary shelter materials, water filtration equipment.”
Ukrainian refugees who traveled to Canada as part of Samaritan’s Purse’s “special mission” to Canada described how the ongoing war in Ukraine has upended their lives. The eight-month pregnant refugee Graham mentioned, Natalia, reported that “we did not know what to do or where we could go.”
Natalia expressed gratitude to Samaritan’s Purse for giving her a “miracle” in the form of the flight to Canada.
“Now, my baby will be born in a safe country," she said. "We are all in a similar situation. Every person on this plane has been praying for a fresh start, a new life. And then Samaritan’s Purse told us they would help. It is God showing us his love. This is God’s mercy flight.”
Another refugee, Marina, had to leave behind the four stores she ran with her husband, Mischa.
“We were in a happy business,” she recalled. “There is nothing better than seeing joy in children’s faces when they choose to bring a new toy home.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine turned the family’s happy life upside down.
“The soldiers looted our stores. They tore everything to pieces. They destroyed the toys and everything else. There was no food. We thought we might starve. When they came to our neighborhood, we decided we couldn’t hold out any longer. We were making our plans to leave. Then one night, we received a call from a friend who told us they were on their way to burn down our home.”
Mischa and Marina, along with their 10-year-old daughter, Yeva, left everything behind as they fled the country in a hurry. Yeva, who rushed back into the house to retrieve her cherished teddy bear at the last minute, detailed how the unrest in Ukraine and the rush to flee the country and leave everything behind made her “scary and sad.”
“I had to leave my house and my pets. I had to leave my school and all of my friends,” she said. “I don’t know what life will be now. I only hope that the Canadian children will like me —and that my dog and cat will be safe in Ukraine.”
Samaritan’s Purse is one of several charity organizations that has worked to address the fallout from the situation in Ukraine since the conflict first began earlier this year. The group set up a field hospital in the Ukrainian city of Lviv and continues to work with “an extensive network of pastors and churches in Ukraine and Moldova to help distribute assistance to hundreds of thousands of people.”
An email shared with CP explained that Samaritan’s Purse has “airlifted more than 330 tons of relief supplies — including our Emergency Field Hospital — on 13 airlift missions.” Additionally, the group told CP that “Samaritan’s Purse has a team of doctors and nurses operating multiple medical facilities across Ukraine and they have treated more than 8,700 patients so far.”
“We have delivered more than 1,433 tons of food in Ukraine and Moldova, and we have also provided 17,500 backpacks for children so they have something to put their belongings in as they flee. In all, we have helped more than 338,000 people by distributing critical relief items such as blankets, hygiene kits, and solar lights. We are also installing community water filtration systems in areas where water sources have been disrupted or contaminated by the conflict.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org