230 displaced Ukrainians arrive in Regina on charter flight from Poland
A plane carrying 230 Ukrainians fleeing the war in their home country, including 100 children, has landed in Regina.
It is the first charter flight to bring the displaced citizens to Saskatchewan.
“We hope this is the first of many, many flights to come,” pilot Enrique Pineyro, who donated the flight said.
The direct flight from Warsaw, Poland arrived around 7:30 p.m. local time after nine hours in the air. Humanitarian organizations Open Arms and Solidaire helped coordinate the flight.
Upwards of 700 bags, some dogs and cats, and a chinchilla were also on board, according to Regina Airport Authority CEO James Bogusz.
He called it a “massive operation” likely only seen once every 10 years.
However, Pineyro said the composition of passengers is what makes this humanitarian flight different than others.
“It’s very rare to see. It’s women, it’s children and it’s old people and they’ve left behind their sons, their husbands, their fathers,” Pineyro said.
The passengers were expected to clear customs within three to four hours before being chartered to the University of Regina where they will stay until they find permanent accommodations.
Some will stay in the city, but others are expected to find homes in smaller communities across the province, according to the government.
Terry Dennis, MLA and legislative secretary of Saskatchewan-Ukraine Relations, said the hope is many will find housing through host families, church group sponsorships and, in some cases, Saskatchewan Housing Authority vacancies.
The provincial government has created a settlement reception centre to help set up bank accounts and issue health cards to the Ukrainian citizens.
Regina’s mayor, Sandra Masters, said the city is doing its part in offering support, including information on job opportunities, along with public transit and leisure passes.
She said she wants the Ukrainian citizens to know they are welcome in the city and the province.
“People have an incredible spirit of generosity and sometimes that’s not necessarily financial, but of their time and of their caring and sharing their lives and opening up their lives to make them feel welcome and to enjoy the experience while they’re here,” Masters said.
Saskatchewan has committed more than $300,000 toward the resettlement effort.
With this flight, more than 1,000 displaced Ukrainians have come to Saskatchewan since the conflict began. Government officials expect that number to grow.
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