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Ukrainian family flees war for safety in Barrie, Ont.

Alex Konstantinovski is grateful to have his sister out of Ukraine and safely under the roof of his Barrie, Ont. home.

"She could not stay any longer. It just came to a point when it was the time to pull the pin and evacuate and literally to flee that area."

Konstantinovski's sister, Olena, and her husband escaped their homeland with their four-year-old son at the last possible moment when it became clear staying was no longer safe.

The family fled to Poland and France, then to Canada, where they had an emotional reunion with their loved ones.

"I'm so happy and so appreciate the Canadian government and all the authorities and officials to make it possible."

With her brother translating, Olena said she doesn't know when she will return home.

"We need to stop that war and genocide there in Ukraine, and then, my sister and her family will feel completely safe."

Olena, a journalist and documentary-filmmaker, said the Russians now occupy their hometown since the invasion more than a month ago, and she has been unable to reach friends back home.

She and her husband are learning English and looking for work.

"Olena says that she appreciates Canada made a decision to offer a work permit to Ukrainians fleeing the war zone," Konstantinovski said.

"Ukrainians are hardworking people, and they're ready to apply their skills and time and dedication and talents to be part of this great country," he added.

Their cousin, 17-year-old Alex, arrived in Barrie a few weeks ago and plans to study here.

It's a harsh reality not knowing when he will see his family and friends in Ukraine again, knowing this could be a one-way trip.

"Getting to understand that it's not just a trip to Canada. It's for long, for very long. I'm not going to see my family for half a year, at least, maybe longer."

The Konstantinovski's are finalizing plans to bring more family members trapped in Ukraine with no other option but to abandon their homes to safety in Canada.


Meanwhile, the support for those struggling in Ukraine continues to pour in across the country, including Barrie.

On Tuesday night, volunteers sorted countless boxes of donations of needed items at St. John Vianney Parish.

The effort started with just a few members of the local Ukrainian community but has since broadened.

For the volunteers who are of Ukrainian descent, many with family still overseas, the efforts are deeply touching.

"I feel anger. I'm angry, but I wouldn't say that I feel really helpless because I see the support of the community in Barrie and in Canada and all around the world. I believe that Ukrainians see the support," said volunteer Artem Iermak.

"They receive donations. They receive some other support, and they feel they are not alone, and many people stand together with Ukraine to help Ukraine to win this war."

The group works with several volunteer organizations in Toronto that then ship the items to volunteer groups based in Poland and Lviv.

With files from CTV's Dana Roberts

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