There is no small international irony, and no small intergenerational harmony, to be found in the recent exploits of Peter Lukomskyj. His is one of the more beautiful stories to be found in the humanity of helping Ukraine bear the brunt of Russia’s brutality.
The Vancouver-based tech executive working in transportation has recently returned from Poland, where he had been overseeing, yes, transportation and supplies to those fleeing Ukraine.
And like grandfather, like father, now like son, his life has running through it a thread in the incessance of Ukrainians dealing with Russian threat – in years past it was the scourge of Stalin, for his elders the crossfire of Russian and German forces, now for his contemporaries the psychosis of Putin.
There was no small meaning in his return with his uncle to the same border at Medyka his grandfather and father (then 10) crossed to safety in 1945.
“In my father’s memoirs, he explains how he wouldn’t have survived the journey west if it hadn’t been for the kindness of strangers, including people picking them up in their cars and wagons to give them a lift.”
He considers his efforts “an easy decision” and “a small way of returning the favour,” but that is the most modest way of putting it, particularly given the most recent chapter in this journey.
Consider this: At the Frankfurt airport on the way home, he overheard a woman speaking Ukrainian. Olena was eight months-plus pregnant, with only a plane ticket to Vancouver and a loose connection to a potential host in Canada.
By the end of their flight, Lukomskyj’s family had committed to take her in; his wife Jen had prepared a place in their home for her to stay. They have since found her a Ukrainian-speaking midwife, booked a date at BC Women’s Hospital for the birth and helped her gain a work permit to be eligible for health benefits. (B.C. has agreed to make those fleeing Ukraine eligible immediately.)
And if you’re wondering: yes, Olena and her husband back in Moschun near Kyiv are in, you guessed it, the transportation business.
His kindness is the sort conferred on his grandfather that permitted Peter’s father, and in turn him, “a life of opportunity.” He now is raising money for those families he and his uncle encountered and for the Ukraine Red Cross. As this story published, he was approaching $50,000.
“If my parents and grandparents were still alive, they would be horrified that this ugly history is repeating itself. That said, they would be so proud of the strength, determination, and dignity with which Ukrainians are defending their country. The way that the Ukrainian flag has come to symbolize freedom aligns so perfectly with everything they taught me.”
There are thousands like him in this country reprising the deeds that granted their forebears freedom and safety. Canada, after all, has the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora – Russia being the first – with more than 1.3 million of Ukrainian descent. Despite this, Canada and its allies have determined to let the invaded country go it alone in repelling the invaders – even if so many of the victims are families of our people.
Humanitarian aid and weaponry are flooding into the country, but military aid from the NATO alliance is withheld for fear of creating a larger theatre of war. In witnessing the slaughter of civilians and the merciless attacks on hospitals, train stations and anywhere on anyone, one wonders what could be worse than this. It is a genocide. It is hard to believe sanctions of any sort will stop the madness of the Kremlin’s principal, harder still to think that decrying the Russian president is even reaching his attention.
Lukomskyj has a very plaintive message for his business counterparts: “My call to action for other business leaders would be to demonstrate their support for Ukrainians, because in doing so they support those who are fighting against bullying, tyranny and oppression on behalf of the entire world.”
It isn’t difficult to do much, he notes: “Hire displaced Ukrainians for remote work, open your homes to Ukrainians coming to B.C., donate your products and services, donate to support those who are fighting and those who have lost everything.” •
Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.