Ukrainian refugee returns to war zone to bring ashes of husband killed in battle back to Winnipeg
Hanna Sidorchenko is making a solemn trip back to Ukraine just months after leaving the war-torn country for Winnipeg after her husband was killed in battle.
Sidorchenko boarded a flight from the city on Friday headed for Kyiv in hopes of finding the body of her husband Andrii Sidorchenko, 35, and bringing his cremated remains back to Manitoba.
“Andrii would tell her he would return from combat so they could live together here in Winnipeg,” Hannah said through her friend and translator, Oksana Lazarenko, who accompanied her on the emotional journey home.
“It was his dream to come to Canada.”
Andrii stayed in Ukraine to serve when Hannah and their son Rostyslav made their way to Winnipeg via Poland earlier this year.
Hannah said Andrii stayed positive despite the dangers around him.
He was a drone operator in the war, and his main role was to scan battlefields for Russian enemies to “minimize losses” to Ukrainian forces, Hannah said.
She heard on May 5 through relatives, a friend of Andrii’s and fellow soldiers that he died in battle in the eastern city of Bakmhut. Hannah said two other soldiers were killed in the same battle and two others were injured.
Hannah is returning to learn more about the circumstances of Andrii’s death.
Andrii dreamed of moving the family to Canada before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Those plans changed when the war got underway and he had to defend Ukraine.
Andrii had collected photos of Canada. He worked as a welder in Ukraine and wanted to do the same here.
His body has thus far gone unaccounted for but Hannah hopes to change that.
“There are like active battlefields so we can’t go close … because if she was allowed to go she definitely would and find him herself,” Hannah communicated through Lazarenko.
Once they arrive in Kyiv, Lazarenko and Hannah plan to connect with lawyers, volunteers and people on the front line to try to track down Andrii’s last known location.
The trip back was made possible thanks to a Winnipeg church.
Soul Sanctuary lead pastor Gerry Michalski said the congregation raised money to cover Sidorchenko’s travel costs and more.
“People, I think, really felt her pain,” said Michalski.
Michalski said the extra money collected will help furnish her apartment in Winnipeg when she gets back. She and her son have been sleeping on air mattresses.
If they manage to find Andrii’s body, Hannah wants to hold a funeral for him in Ukraine, then bring his ashes back to Canada.
“She needs to find strength in herself,” Hannah said through Lazarenko. “It’s pretty hard.”