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Maskwacis resident in Poland helping Ukrainian refugee effort

‘My whole world just turned upside down.’
Maskwacis resident Cyril Nerubenko has been deployed to Ukraine since April, 2022. (Photo submitted)

By Carlie Sanderson


Resident of Maskwacis Cyril Nerubenko has been in Poland since April to help support the Ukrainian refugees.

Nerubenko is a Division Officer in the HMCS Nonsuch in Edmonton. He is originally from Ukraine and was heartbroken when he heard what had happened, calling it a nightmare.

“For the few days I could not believe their reality. My whole world just turned upside down,” he said.

Moving to Canada in 1997, Nerubenko has worked all across the country.

After the news broke out of Ukraine, he started planning all the ways he could help.

“As soon as I saw the war start, it hit me really hard seeing all the destruction and all of the people’s pain. Lots of other Ukrainian-born Canadians also took it really close to the heart.”

Arriving in Poland on April 16, Nerubenko set to work supporting the refugee situation.

On April 19, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) opened their satellite location for biometrics, which is what Nerubenko helped out with.

“Canada steps up to help out Ukrainian displaced persons and opens the borders to simplify the process of applying for the Canadian visa to as many people as they could,” he explained.

After submitting the application the only big step for the Ukrainian citizens is to collect their biometrics, which involves taking their picture and fingerprints.

The local biometrics unit has since been closed, but collected biometrics from 30,000 people and Nerubenko said there were around 150,000 applicants, approximately 70,000 of which were approved.

“It’s huge. Canada has never done anything of that scale before.”

Nerubenko said that his training through the military really prepared him for the effort.

“I was able to be fully engaged in helping out our partners with IRCC,” he said adding that they are also helping their partners with the Territorial Defence Force of Poland with a variety of tasks, mostly working with the displaced persons reception centres.

“When we got here there was already a fully functioning system, we’re just trying to help as much as we can to our Polish friends,” he said.

“We were trying to help as much as we could to the people that were affected, and honestly being able to wear the uniform and help out — it is a privilege for me to be here.”

Working in the reserves is Nerubenko’s part-time job. His civilian job is working for Correctional Services Canada in Edmonton. He said he is grateful to those in his work places, along with his wife and son, in supporting his deployment to Poland.

In terms of how long he will remain in Poland, he said it all depends on the needs of their partners in Poland, but said there is a lesser influx of people currently coming from the Ukraine.