While driving his truck through the Netherlands, Andrii Shevchuk learned Russia had invaded Ukraine. Cut off from his wife and two children in Mariupol, Shevchuk knew he would be conscripted once he crossed the border.
Under Ukraine’s martial law, men upwards of 60 years old are required to stay and resist Russian occupation. He had difficult choices to make and decided he couldn’t leave his family in harm’s way as the Russian Army swept south and bombarded Mariupol.
“I knew as soon as I would cross the border, I would be called to fight. But then, who would provide for my family? How would they survive? I knew there was no way my wife and kids would stay in Mariupol,” Shevchuk reportedly said.
His wife and children fled their embattled home city with nothing but a backpack. They made a family decision to migrate under the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET). Since the war broke out, more than 420,000 Ukrainians have had applications approved.
After being hired by the Caravan Group of Companies, Shevchuk discovered 10 other Ukrainians found opportunities with Caravan. The quick hiring of refugees may be partly due to Caravan Logistics president John Iwaniura being of Ukrainian descent. Operations director Zoriana Workun is reportedly a member of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
Similar to Shevchuk’s plight, Anastasiya Chaban left Lviv with her husband and three children. She took an executive assistant position at Caravan, although she holds a law degree and was growing a family business in Ukraine. Their journey involved months of trekking through Europe while trying to find a place to live.
“When we talk about deciding to leave the country, you’d probably imagine an adult that makes weighted decisions after a thoughtful process and preparation. You know, that’s what adults usually do. But this was not our case,” Chaban reportedly said.“It was a chaotic and impulsive thing. I was filling out the CUAET application while we were driving from Poland to Italy. There was no strategy. We just lived day by day.”
After opting to relocate to Canada, she was offered a position at Caravan despite not having worked in the freight transportation sector. She reportedly credits Caravan for investing and trusting in her, knowing English is not her native language.
Workun noted that onboarding Ukrainian refugees has tested the limits and compassion of the trucking industry. It’s not uncommon for Caravan Group customers to require truckers to undergo background checks and security clearances before hauling their goods and materials. For truckers such as Shevchuk, procuring documents from occupied Mariupol could be impossible. For others, checks can take months.
“We’ve asked for exemptions, but some clients are hesitant to provide the clearance if someone’s not a citizen or a permanent resident. Some, however, have been a bit more lenient with it or provided some grace,” Workun reportedly said.