Two Ukrainian refugees return to Victoria after Canadian visa mishap

Two Ukrainian refugees return to Victoria after Canadian visa mishap
Valeriia Dranytsia and her son, Nazar, are pictured. (Submitted)

Two Ukrainian refugees are once again back in Victoria after their dream trip home to visit family quickly turned into a nightmare thanks to a visa mishap.

“I was very happy I was able to get back to Canada,” said Ukrainian refugee Valeriia Dranytsia.

Separated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Dranytsia and her 10-year-old son Nazar fled to Vancouver Island a year ago.

Since then, she’s been saving to be able to reunite with her husband and older son for a short visit to her home country.

Last week, that dream became a reality, but Dranytsia said heading back to Canada became a nightmare.

Despite saying on paper their visas were designated for “multi-entry” when scanned by Air Canada, Dranytsia said they came up as single-entry visas.

As a result, she and her 10-year-old son, Nazar, were denied boarding until they had the right Canadian entry requirements.

READ MORE: Two Ukrainian refugees stuck overseas after Canadian visa mishap

This caused the two to travel to the Canadian consulate in Warsaw, Poland, where the visa issue was corrected.

Dranytsia said all this extra travel cost her much more than she anticipated for the trip.

“I wasn’t ready to pay for additional costs for hotel, for food, for travelling between Amsterdam and Warsaw and all the other costs,” said Zhanna Kolesnyk, who acted as translator for Dranytsia.

Once the visa’s were corrected, Dranytsia said she and volunteers with Help Ukraine Vancouver Island started hunting for flights back to Victoria.

Karmen McNamara, with Help Ukraine Vancouver Island, said the average flight cost came out to about $6,000 for the two tickets.

“I finally saw one and realized it was about 12 hours away and it was one of the cheaper ones we saw,” McNamara said. “It was about $4,800 for two tickets, which comparatively was less expensive so we jumped on them and bought them on someone’s credit card and said OK we will figure this out later when they are back in the country.”

A GoFundMe page was also set up to help offset the cost for Dranytsia.

McNamara said at the time of buying the plane tickets it had raised about $1,500, and the total has since increased, reaching $1,661 by Saturday afternoon.

“We are still continuing to raise money because we don’t think Valeriia should be out this money long term, but she is home and that’s the most important thing,” McNamara added.

Help Ukraine Vancouver Island has been communicating with Air Canada to try and sort out the flight costs for Dranytsia.

McNamara said Air Canada initially told her the airline would honour what Dranytsia originally paid for her flights and Dranytsia would just have to pay the difference for the new tickets.

She said Dranytsia and her son were already on the plane to Canada when this offer was made, meaning the flights were already paid for.

“So [I asked], ‘Can you please refund that amount of money to the credit card and here’s the booking number,'” McNamara said.

She explained that Air Canada then said it couldn’t do that, so she is still in talks with the airline to sort it out.

In a statement to CHEK News, Air Canada said “we are looking into this matter.”

Dranytsia said she is just happy to be back in Victoria, back to work and back to her and her son’s life on Vancouver Island, adding she can’t believe all the support she received during this time.

“I am very thankful to the Canadian government and Canadian people for all the help they provided,” Dranytsia said.

With files from Kori Sidaway.

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