Family that helped many Ukrainians settle in Canada now needs help themselves

Letters of support needed for application for Maryna Chernyk’s mother and sister to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds

April 16, 2024, 10:05 am
Kevin Weedmark

Maryna Chernykh with her mother, Lidiia Serdiuk. Her visa expired and she and Maryna’s sister, Tetiana Serdiuk, are applying to stay in Canada on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds.

Roman and Maryna Chernykh have helped a lot of Ukrainians settle in the area as they have fled the war in Ukraine.

There are now 42 Ukrainians who have moved to Moosomin since the Russian invasion, including eight who arrived within the last few weeks. One couple is waiting in Regina for housing in Moosomin. This family would bring the total to 44 Ukrainians.

Now the Chernykhs need help, as Maryna’s mother, Lidiia and sister, Tetiana, both need letters of support to support their applications to stay in Canada based on Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds.

Visa expired
In the case of Lidiia, her visa has expired.

“Her passport was expired in October,” explains Roman. “So they approved the CUAET (Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel) visa only until the end of the passport. You cannot extend the visa without extending your passport. But for the passport we had to travel to Edmonton and we couldn’t travel because we were waiting for her cataract surgery. The cataract surgery was supposed to be done in June but then they postponed it until November. So all this time we were waiting and we couldn’t extend the passport, so when we actually got her surgery done, she couldn’t travel for another two months. Then after that we went in January, just me and Maryna, to extend her passport so that we could apply for her visa but it was already too late.”

The CUAET can be restored if a passport has expired, but only if application is made within 90 days of the expiration of the passport.

Now the family is hoping to gather lots of letters of support from people in the community, so they can show Immigration and Citizenship Canada that Lidiia and Tetiana are valued members of the community, and that they cannot go back to Ukraine because of the war.

No home to go to
“She can’t go back to Ukraine because she has no one to take care of her and she has no home—no house,” says Roman. “She’s 87 years old and Maryna and I are the only two people in her life that are actually left to take care of her.

“Kherson, where she is from, is terrible right now and it’s getting worse day-by-day. There’s no power, there’s no hospitals and people are struggling. There were 300,000 people and now there’s barely 20,000 there now. A bomb came through right in her apartment building. She can’t go back there.

“Kherson was taken by the Russians but then the Russians left from there and went to the other side of the river and that’s where they’re bombing us, from there.”

Looking for letters of support
The family is looking for letters of support from individuals, community groups, churches, community leaders, and anyone who wants to show their support.

Roman says he feels devastated by the thought Lidiia and Tetiana may not be able to stay in Canada.

“Oh it makes me feel devastated,” says Roman. “I’m lost. I especially feel bad for Maryna because she is so close to her mom.”

Maryna says she doesn’t even want to see photos of Kherson in its current state.

“I don’t want to see the pictures because it was very cozy in our place, it was beautiful, and it’s painful to see what’s happened to it, and I don’t want my mom to see it.”

Maryna says she sees the situation as a challenge.

“It’s tough and I think it’s a test,” she says. “My mom, she just always tells me that if you have some challenges in your life, this is a test and you have to do all your best and say you have no problem. I think this is the only way—keeping a positive attitude. I thought the problem was only her vision and then the weeks passed and it was renewing her passport in Edmonton. The passport was approved but the visa was not. I didn’t know the rules so now it’s kind of like there’s so little we can do.

“I worry, of course, but I can’t show it. I don’t know what to expect but I try to gather the letters from people. We’ve been working with Maegan at the library and the church. So I try to take all of the letters to prove that to the people who don’t know her that she is an honest and nice person that hasn’t done anything wrong. There’s no criminal record. My mom, she has a medal saying that she was the best dentist in the city and she worked more than 37 years as one.”

Roman says it’s ironic that Lidiia and Tetiana escaped the Russian soldiers invading their country but are now facing this challenge.

“If you’re able to escape the physical fight with the Russian soldiers, you don’t have to be afraid of anything,” he said. That’s a terrible war and that’s what it brings—breaking families apart and everything. Breaking people’s lives too.”

Maryna says her Mom has the right attitude. “My mom says, ‘If you can solve the problem, it’s not a problem.’ So when she climbed in Banff around Lake Louise on the mountain she kept saying, ‘It’s you that’s old. You’re complaining that it’s too high.’ She wasn’t afraid but for me it’s kind of high and is a little bit scary. I don’t want my mom to see the video or pictures right now of what it looks like back there because a lot has happened and I don’t want it to ruin her memories.”

Humanitarian and Compassionate application the only option
Moosomin immigration consultant Ailyn Silanga says a Humanitarian and Compassionate application is the only option in this case.

“Her situation is different because she is not, I’m sad to say, qualified for any class of immigration. So when that situation happens we can apply on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds and that’s why I asked Roman to collect any letters showing that she is active in the community, that she’s helping people, and that she’s not a burden to the community or to society. So that’s actually how H&C grounds work.

“I can add, of course, that she is from Ukraine and explain the situation there, but the main application would H&C grounds. Of course I have to write a letter as well as a submission as a consultant but these documents and letters will help a lot in her application.”

Every letter will help
Silanga says every letter will help.

“A letter from anybody or any organization that really knows her, her character and her contribution to the community basically will be helpful. Her contribution—anything at all that could help or can show that she is not a burden to our community.”

Silanga says she’s hoping to get the letters in and the application in by the end of April.

“The application period for Ukrainians ends in October 2024. I’m hoping that we can get it in by the end of this month and then I can upload and apply for everything.

“Besides the letters of support, there are different federal forms like the Background Declaration Form, the Generic Application Form and the Family Information Form where they have to write all of their family members including siblings and all sorts of family and relatives there. So I have given them those forms and we will file all these forms.

“Basically you send it and wait for the decision of the officer. Now with this H&C grounds application, this is highly discretionary, because the officer has the discretion wether to approve or refuse the application. So on my part I have to do everything and collect all I can collect to have a strong case to present to the officer to show that they have to give this person approval because this is what’s going to happen if you do not accept this application. She has nowhere to go back to in Ukraine, the family, her mental state, and the hardship—what will be the hardships. So all of those should be mentioned in the application.

“Because she’s Ukrainian and there is a war in Ukraine, that is a very strong point to mention. We can make a strong case, but at the end of the day, the officer has the discretion—no matter what kind of application. The officer at Citizenship and Immigration Canada has the discretion to approve or refuse the application.

“Right now Tatiana has a three year work permit and as long as this status is valid then she is okay. And the same for Lidiia. So Lidiia’s case is different because her status expired quite awhile ago. I wish that I was here before it expired because if I had known, then she would have 90 days to restore the status, but she is beyond restoration and that is why we’re using the Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.”

She said that letters of support from friends and acquaintances should be notarized if possible.

The application process will take two to three years.

Letters of support can be dropped off at TJ’s Pizza in Moosomin or emailed to