When Russia invaded Ukraine, thousands fled the country and an international effort began to help get people to safety. Among them, an Ottawa woman who flew back to Europe help get her parents to safety.

Maryna Skobal, originally from Ukraine, came to Canada in 2015.

“The only one thought in my head was to save my parents,” says Skobal.

Her parents, still in Ukraine when the invasion began, needed to leave Kyiv urgently.

Skobal made the call to help get them out, along with 11 other family members, including three children.

What would normally be an eight-hour trip to the Polish border took her parents four days, navigating the war-torn country. And that’s where Skobal was waiting.

“Seeing them alive, that was the best,” says Skobal. “I kissed them all over their face. Their ears, their nose, their eyes, their cheeks, chins, necks. Their hair, I smelt them so much, hugged them so tight.”

Her parents have now been living with her for a month, every day hoping the war ends so they can go back home.

“They’re still suffering from loss of sleep because every night they’re trying to read the news because of the time difference,” says Skobal. “Making sure they’re in touch with their friends and family members.”

Skobal works for Altis Recruitment, a company doing everything it can to help Ukrainian refugees find work in Ottawa.

While her parents are not looking for work, many Ukrainians who come here are.

“We’re going to be helping Ukrainians … to make sure we can help them to find a job here as soon as possible,” she says.

Altis CEO and co-founder Kathryn Tremblay says she was amazed by Skobal’s recent journey and knows the importance of helping newcomers to Canada.

“We’re basically reigniting our newcomer program directed specifically at newcomers who are coming from Ukraine,” says Tremblay.

Tremblay says Skobal is providing information in Ukrainian to newcomers, who may be nervous and unsure of how to find a job in Canada.

“She’s providing a context for, how you build your resume, what kind of questions will be in an interview, how you prepare for that,” Tremblay says.

Skobal says it could be months or even years before her parents might be able to return, but she’s just grateful she was able to help bring them safely home for now.

“They both have only one child,” says Skobal. “And they’re the only parents I have. Hopefully for many years.”