Two Ukrainian refugees stuck overseas after Canadian visa mishap

Two Ukrainian refugees stuck overseas after Canadian visa mishap

A dream trip home to Ukraine to reunite with family has quickly turned into a nightmare for two Ukrainian refugees.

Valeriia Dranytsia says the wrong visa was issued by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, leaving her and her 10-year-old son Nazar stuck overseas.

“She feels terrible right now, she’s frustrated. She’s stressed, she didn’t expect this situation at all,” said Anastasiia Konstandynova with Help Ukraine Vancouver Island, who acted as translator for Dranytsia.

Separated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Dranytsia and her youngest 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.

“Valariia was very happy to get back to Ukraine to see her family, her husband and her son. Valariia says her son seems much older than he was a year ago. She didn’t recognize him,” said Konstandynova, translating for Dranytsia.

Dranytsia thought she’d planned for everything. On her way back to Canada though, her visa hit a surprise snag.

Despite saying on paper their visas were designated for “multi-entry” when scanned by Air Canada, Dranytsia says 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.

After being bounced from the Canadian consulate to the Ukrainian consulate in Amsterdam, Dranytsia was told only officials in Warsaw, Poland, could help. Her lack of English proved to be a major struggle.

When the consulates opened Monday morning, Dranytsia and her son’s corrected visas quickly came through.

“It took about five minutes. They said, ‘Uup, we made a mistake. Here you go, done.’ Then she was under the impression she could take the flight home,” said Karmen McNamara with Help Ukraine Vancouver Island, who has been helping Dranytsia navigate the issue.

The only way home, based on what Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Air Canada told them, is for Dranytsia, who scrimped and saved for a year for her original flights, to purchase two new tickets to the tune of roughly $7,000.

“I thought, well, this is ridiculous. This can’t be,” said McNamara. “I had already been in contact with the IRCC and had asked if they would be willing to assist, would they help get her back home. They said nope, they don’t compensate these cases, there’s absolutely nothing they can do.”

McNamara says Air Canada told her that there was nothing they could do because Dranytsia and her son had been marked as “no-shows” on their flights.

“It would cost Air Canada simply nothing to put her on a flight with an empty seat on it,” said McNamara.

“She paid for her and her son’s flight back. She paid,” said Konstandynova, once again translating for Dranytsia. “She just wants to use the service she paid for.”

The clerical error has left Dranytsia and her son stuck in Poland, with hotel and food bills stacking, unable to return full-time to Ukraine or their new home on Vancouver Island.

The family is so desperate they’ve started a GoFundMe to raise the money to get Dranytsia back to Canada, her job as a hotel housekeeper, and her son to school.

Air Canada did not respond to CHEK News’ request for comment. The IRCC notified CHEK News they had received our request but likely would be unable to get back before deadline.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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