Ship part

Former Alberta MPP and former premier ship latest donations to Ukraine

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When former Edmonton-Castle Down MLA Thomas Lukaszuk teamed up with former Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach to help Ukrainians, he never anticipated it would become a full-scale undertaking.

“It took on a life of its own and turned into a multi-million dollar humanitarian aid operation,” Lukaszuk said.

But on June 25, the last donations were packed in a container and shipped to Ukraine.

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Last March, after watching the war in Ukraine on the news, Lukaszuk decided he wanted to do more than watch.

“I called Ed on his cell and said, ‘You’ve got a good rolodex, I’ve got a good rolodex, there’s gotta be something we can do,'” Lukaszuk said.

So they called a few people, including the Canadian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland, who worked closely with the Ukrainian Ambassador, and asked for a list of what they needed.

They got a list of things like personal hygiene items, diapers, first aid kits and all medical supplies.

After securing a small garage at the Polish Hall at 10960 104 St., Lukaszuk took to social media, saying he and Stelmach were collecting those items and going to ship them to Ukraine.

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“I’m not kidding, we’re here with this little garage and people are starting to come and go,” Lukaszuk said.

Needless to say, there were more donations than the small garage could handle, so someone lent them a warehouse, which also quickly filled up.

“So we have all this stuff,” Lukaszuk laughs, “and Ed and I look at each other and say, ‘Now what?’ ”

Challenged by Stelmach to get a plane, Lukaszuk used his contacts to arrange a Boeing 787 from Polish airline LOT.

“I called Ed and said, ‘I have a plane, now you have a job. You have to fill the plane with fuel,'” Lukaszuk said.

Which, thanks to his connections, Stelmach did.

Now with the plane arriving, Lukaszuk knew there were empty seats and wondered if they were putting refugees on them, and after a few more phone calls, 67 refugees arrived and were matched with families, and the next day the plane left with the medical equipment.

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After that, they were shipping 48-foot cubic containers full of donations to Ukraine once a week, and they were shipping eight in total. What they couldn’t ship due to regulations, they donated to local charities.

“Everyone is doing their best, and so are we,” Lukaszuk said.

Tragically, two volunteer drivers trying to deliver supplies from Alberta near Mariupol were killed in April.

Lukaszuk and Stelmach are now focused on raising funds for things that can be bought in Europe and sent to Ukraine, instead of shipping them from here.

Anyone interested in contributing can donate to the Canadian Polish Historical Society or the Ed Stelmach Community Foundation.

[email protected]

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