Tuesday, March 28, 2023
Home New Release 3 Ukrainian children stranded in Mexico granted visas to return to Edmonton

3 Ukrainian children stranded in Mexico granted visas to return to Edmonton

Three Ukrainian children, adopted by an Edmonton woman, are coming home after being stranded in Mexico for months.

“Everyone is happy to hear happy news,” said Olga Ostapiv, who is a Canadian citizen and the legal guardian of three children from Ukraine named Anastasia, Yulia and Maksim.

The kids have a special type of visa called CUAET ( Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel), which grants them one-time entry into Canada. It is not considered a refugee program.

3 Ukrainian children from Edmonton stuck in Mexico

Ostapiv said she wanted to help them forget about the war and decided to take them on a vacation she had booked before Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago.

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She says because her English isn’t great, she asked immigration officers if the kids could travel with those documents and was told yes.

However, when it came time to head back to the airport in Mexico and return home to Edmonton, she learned the kids could not fly back to Canada.

The kids have been in Mexico for two months now, hotel hopping on a weekly basis and unable to return to Edmonton.

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Ostapiv accepts responsibility and admits it’s her mistake for not understanding the limits of the visa.

“I just simply ask, please help me to fix this,” she said Thursday, adding the kids suffered because of her misunderstanding. “I took responsibility for those kids. They trust me. They like to stay here.”

Olga Ostapiv’s three adopted kids Anastasia, Yulia, and Maksim, photographed with her sister.

Supplied: Olga Ostapiv

For two months, Ostapiv has been working to get the visa issue resolved.

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At one point, sending the children back to Ukraine seemed like it might be the only choice — a heartbreaking option, as they’d started school in Edmonton, made new friends, and joined activities like dance and taekwondo.

The kids have been looking forward to once again attending summer events they took in when they first arrived in Edmonton, like the Heritage Festival.

“The worst scenario is to send them back home,” she said, explaining they’d be housebound in a region with no power or in-person school. “They lost connection with their friends and schoolmates in the Ukraine. And their first question was, how can we (go) back now?”

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On Thursday, Ostapiv told Global News the children were granted visas and passports to come back to Canada.

Ostapiv said she was ready to jump on a plane to Puerto Vallarta right away but was advised by the government workers she’s been communicating with to wait while the paperwork is processed.

She is now working to get the documents into the children’s hands and thinks it could take a week to get that sorted.

Olga Ostapiv’s three adopted kids Anastasia, Yulia, and Maksim.

Supplied: Olga Ostapiv

Ostapiv said her family lives a quiet, simple life and speaking to the media about the mix-up has been stressful — but after two months of trying to deal with the issue on their own and getting nowhere, going public about it brought results.

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“I didn’t expect it to be so fast,” she said of the children were getting their documentation two days after she spoke out. “I thought, yes, maybe faster — maybe a week — but today, really, it’s like magic.”

She is very grateful for all the people who helped to get the children home.

“Thank you for everyone. It’s lots people involved and helped me to solve my mistake.”

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