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Donations being sought to fill plane from Edmonton to help those in Ukraine.

Volunteers at Edmonton's Polish Hall gather donations to be sent for the people of Ukraine Monday, March 21, 2022.
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Volunteers at Edmonton's Polish Hall gather donations to be sent for the people of Ukraine Monday, March 21, 2022.

Global News

A couple of former Alberta politicians have come together to collect donations of much-needed survival supplies to send a plane load of aid to Ukrainians in need.

Donations are being collected at Edmonton’s Polish Hall between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday this week. Organizers are gathering new, unused items like first aid supplies, pain medications, diapers and hygiene products (See more items below) .

“Think about survival outdoors,” said organizer Thomas Lukaszuk. “Think about being stranded with nothing. What are your basic needs? The only thing we cannot take with us are liquids, so everything in dry form.”

Lukaszuk, a former cabinet minister and Alberta’s former deputy premier, has been watching the news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the past several weeks. He realized he needed to do something to help.

“I came to the point where I could no longer watch without doing something about it,” Lukaszuk said Monday. “I think Canadians are starting to recognize the importance of this conflict, not only to Ukraine but frankly to the entire Western World.”

He said he phoned his friend and former premier Ed Stelmach, to coordinate a shipment of humanitarian aid.

“He pulled out his Rolodex, I pulled out mine and we started phoning businesses and governmental agencies, towns, municipalities to see what type of materials we could gather,” he said.

“We had a warehouse volunteered to us. And it turned out we were getting a whole bunch of life-saving equipment, surgical equipment, firefighting equipment, search and rescue equipment and our warehouse started to fill up really fast.

“We’re talking $15 to $20 million worth of equipment that has been gathered so far. The generosity is just unbelievable.”

The next challenge was figuring out how they would get the supplies overseas.

“I made a cold call to the president of Polish Airlines LOT and asked them if we can have an airplane. I thought it was a long shot but the president said, ‘Thomas, what kind of an airplane do you need?'”

Lukaszuk said they contacted a number of oil and gas companies and Shell Canada offered to donate 50 tonnes of jet fuel to get the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Europe.

The plane will land in Edmonton on March 28 to pick up the supplies and likely take off the next day, Lukaszuk explained.

The plane is destined for Poland, where the supplies will then be dispersed throughout Ukraine by local non-governmental organizations.

Lukaszuk recognizes how fortunate he and Stelmach are to have the means to organize something like this. For the pair, it’s also personal.

“He is of Ukrainian heritage, so that’s obvious. I am a Polish immigrant. I lived through martial law. I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning with tanks and armoured vehicles in front of your house, compliments of the Russian government,” he explained.

“But also as a Canadian social studies teacher, as a Canadian in general, a former politician, I realized the importance of this conflict and this is our opportunity to help our Ukrainians fight. And they’re not fighting just for the freedom of their own country … they’re fighting for preservation of the world as we know it today.

“This is a threat not only to Ukraine. All of us individually as Canadians want to get involved the best we can.”

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Within the first hour of accepting donations Monday, one U-Haul truck was already full of donations.

Those who stopped by to donate said it was emotional to see everyone coming together to show their support and do what they can for the people of Ukraine.

“We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for being as generous as they are,” said Stan Wilk, who manages the Polish Hall.

“We’re trying to do what we can from our end … This is the Polish Hall. We’re cousins, I guess, is a way to say it. And regardless if it’s Ukraine — it could have been another country — we try to do our part for the community.”

Wilk has received calls from people and organizations across Alberta who are willing to drive to the city to donate what they can.

“One of the government agencies called today, they have several pallets of firefighting equipment, tents and what have you and they’re wondering where they can direct it,” he explained.

“It just shows the generosity of people across the board in this province.”

The Polish Hall is located at 10960 – 104 St. in Edmonton.

  • First aid supplies
  • Pain medications
  • Baby and adult diapers
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Deodorants
  • Oral hygiene products
  • Outdoor survival equipment
  • New socks and underwear
  • Walking canes
  • Walkers
  • Crutches
  • Specialized medical and emergency response equipment

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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