Ukrainian woman separated from husband in Canada calls for visa changes

By Monika Gul and Claire Fenton

A woman from Ukraine is hoping Canada drops its visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens as she waits to be approved to come into the country to be with her husband in the wake of the attacks by Russia.

Ivanna Syvokon is among those who was able to flee ahead of the invasion, but her parents are still in Ukraine. Luckily, she says they are so far unharmed.

She says her mother was very calm when she spoke with her earlier Thursday.

“Directly my heart started pumping. I was panicking…. This whole situation, I’m honestly devastated. Nobody expected that the forces would be doing this way as they’re going right now,” Syvokon told CityNews.

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Syvokon has been in Bulgaria for the past 10 days and is trying to get to Vancouver where her husband works and lives but can’t because of the current visa requirements. She says the last 24 hours have been terrifying and she is desperate to be reunited with her husband.

The couple haven’t seen each other in more than two years, and her previous efforts to get a visitor visa were denied.

“Unfortunately, after the first application, I was refused due to economical situation and family ties,” she said. “We are keeping in touch through phone, through internet, chatting, video calls, but we never seen each other since the 12th of January, I believe, 2020.”

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She applied in January for a reunification visa after consulting with a lawyer but was told the process could take up to two years.

“Civilians are starting to die, and I’m really worried about not only my family but about all families and if they have a chance to relocate to Canada where their families or relatives, even friends … are. That would be a great option,” she said.

Calls have been mounting for Canada to remove the visa requirement, at least temporarily, and Thursday morning the prime minister offered some hope to Ukrainians.

“We’re also prioritizing immigration applications for Ukrainians who want to come to Canada and to ensure we can serve people as quickly as possible today. We are launching a new dedicated phone line for anyone at home or abroad with urgent Ukraine-related immigration questions,” he said.

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“You are not alone, we are standing with you,” Trudeau said.

However, he didn’t announce Canada would follow the decisions made by other countries such as Ireland to remove it entirely. Nor did he announce a timeline.

Both the Official Opposition and the federal New Democrats have called for the removal of the visa requirement in recent days.

Syvokon says she knows many families are terrified and waiting for word like she is.

“I believe that many people have the ancestors and relatives in Canada that have connections to Ukraine. I’m more than sure they’re still worried, they are panicking [as] is my husband right in [now] Canada about what’s happening… for me having a visa free option. This would be a great solution,” she said.

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