Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on the verge of tears hearing stories of Ukrainian refugees in Poland


As Kate Kliuchnyk and her mother, Yuliia, pondered the next chapter of their lives in the bright sunshine outside Warsaw Central Station on Thursday morning, a brief smile crossed their faces.

As Kate Kliuchnyk and her mother, Yuliia, pondered the next chapter of their lives in the bright sunshine outside Warsaw Central Station on Thursday morning, a brief smile crossed their faces.

“We really hope everything will be fine, that we will go home,” said Kate, 19, who fled her home in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, with two younger sisters, her mother and Marley, their gray and white husky.

Speaking in slightly accented English, she said it was like taking a “mini trip. Maybe it’s a good opportunity to see Europe, to see other countries”.

Her mother said it was a good idea to stay positive. “Otherwise, we will be very sad. And that won’t change anything.

As the women embarked on a new path in a new country – without Kate’s father, who stayed behind – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Poland’s leaders and also managed to cross paths with vice -US President Kamala Harris.

Polish President Andrzej Duda told Trudeau that 100,000 people were fleeing Ukraine to Poland every day, increasing its population by 1.5 million refugees. Many are hosted by local Polish residents, while 500,000 Ukrainian refugees have also fled to other countries in Europe.

Duda and Trudeau blasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for an invasion that unleashed the worst carnage in Europe since World War II, killing at least 500 civilians, possibly more, according to United Nations estimates.

An airstrike on a maternity ward in the port city of Mariupol on Wednesday injured pregnant women and left children buried in the rubble.

Duda said Poland would help collect evidence of war crimes so Putin and other Russians could face trial at the International Criminal Court.

“It’s genocide,” he said in Polish.

“If someone bombs maternity wards full of pregnant women, if someone bombs residential areas where there are no military installations, that’s war crimes and that’s genocide.”

Trudeau condemned the invasion and firmly believed that Putin had made a grave mistake in invading Ukraine.

“He will lose this war because the ferocity, strength and determination of the Ukrainian people defending their territory inspires us all.”

It would seem that Yuliia Kliuchnyk’s husband is one of them.

“Men are not allowed to leave the country at this time,” she said.

Kate said she spoke on the phone with her father every day.

Duda said Canada was the only country to offer help to Poland to manage a refugee crisis before Russia launched its “barbaric and unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine.

He described speaking on the phone with Trudeau on Feb. 13, when he said the prime minister told him that if Russia invaded, Canada would support Poland if necessary.

As dusk fell on the Polish capital, Trudeau found himself in crisis when he spent around half an hour with more than a dozen refugees in a crowded room at a hostel in downtown Warsaw. . It was filled with about 15 refugees from five families – all women except for one gray-haired man.

He reached out to grab a blond toddler after wandering past Trudeau and his entourage of ministers. The officials sat against a wall facing the group of masked refugees, a toy orange cement mixer at their feet.

“I just want to tell you that we are watching what is happening in Ukraine every day from all over the world,” Trudeau said.

“And we’re all on your side and we all want this to end as soon as possible. And to get your country back and to support your brave husbands and brothers and friends who remain to make sure Vladimir Putin doesn’t win. But you should know that the West will also be there for you.”

With Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland as interpreter, Trudeau listened to some of the refugees recount their experiences. After listening to one of the women speak, Trudeau was on the verge of tears.

Canadians may soon hear directly from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has agreed to address Parliament next Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. Eastern Time.

“The people of Ukraine have shown extraordinary courage in defending their country against the unjustifiable military invasion of Russian Vladimir Putin,” Prime Minister Mark Holland wrote to the Speaker of the House of Commons on Thursday. Commons, Anthony Rota, as he sought his approval to authorize the speech. to come while the House and Senate are on a two-week recess.

“This would be an opportunity for Canadians to hear directly from President Zelenskyy about the urgent and dire situation facing the people of Ukraine.”

Trudeau, Rota, Senate Speaker George Furey, Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh and a Green Party member would also speak.

In Berlin on Wednesday, Freeland said Canada began planning its response to a European refugee crisis late last year, as Putin began deploying more than 100,000 Russian troops and military equipment to the borders of the EU. ‘Ukraine.

“We called it the ‘God forbid’ scenario,” Freeland said.

Trudeau also met Thursday evening for an hour with the US vice president, who was also in Warsaw, for a discussion on how the two North American neighbors could help their European allies meet their security and humanitarian needs.

“We stand together in the face of our outrage,” Harris told Trudeau ahead of the meeting. Trudeau in turn praised her and the Biden administration for leading “like-minded countries to prepare for this possibility of the unthinkable, of Russia invading Ukraine.”

The United States also raised concerns this week that Putin would release chemical weapons in the war, which Trudeau and Duda said would bring the harshest consequences.

“Putin must know that the consequences of his actions will already be severe, and that further escalations on his part, further targeting of civilians, increased use of problematic means to kill civilians, are going to be met with the harshest responses to the both globally and individually on him,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said Canada would triple the matching fund for Ukrainian relief donations to the Canadian Red Cross, from $10 million to $30 million.

Canada is fast-tracking refugee claims filed before the war started and is giving priority to Ukrainians applying to come to Canada through other channels.

It is also developing an emergency travel stream for Ukrainians that eliminates many of the normal visa requirements and, if they pass security, allows people to work or go to school in Canada. for at least two years.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser’s office said on Thursday the government was on track to launch the new strand on March 17. .

Trudeau did not say whether Canada would consider getting rid of the visa altogether during a press conference with Duda on Thursday.

“We will continue to intervene and do more to bring refugees to Canada as quickly as possible. Our hearts break for the terrible scenes we saw, of people fleeing for their lives, leaving behind all their material possessions, seeking to take care.”

Kate Kliuchnyk said the people of Ukraine need the support of the world.

“I really hope the war will end and our country will be supported by other countries. It’s really important now,” she said.

“We heard about Canada, but it’s far from home. So we came to Poland, because it’s close to home.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 10, 2022.

— With files from Laura Osman in Ottawa.

The Canadian Press

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