The United Nations says more than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion by Russia nearly two weeks ago.
Among those crossing the border into Poland on Sunday was the family of a man who spent six weeks in the Barrie area in the mid-1990s as part of the Children of Chernobyl program.
The Baguley family hosted Slava at their home when he was 12 and paid to have him visit again in 1999.
Barb Baguley says she has been in contact with the 39-year-old on and off since the invasion began and during his journey to get his family to safety.
“Slava has a slightly older sister who has two adolescent children,” said Baguley. “And of course, he has a wife and two younger children, a son who is 10 and a daughter who is six.”
“He went with his sister, his wife and all their children and another party, and took them to the border with Poland. It took approximately 12-hours from the time they got there to cross over.”
Slava was unable to go with them. Last month, Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 were banned from leaving the country.
“He went across Ukraine and through Kyiv, Lviv and to Poland,” explained Baguley. “They had help from people along the way, including a volunteer who let them sleep in Kyiv, and then they moved on again.”
Baguley said it’s her understanding that Slava’s sister and kids hope to leave Poland and find another safe place, while his wife and two children are going to a good friend in Germany.
“I am worried about him because he’s like a third child and a second son,” Baguley told Barrie 360 in a previous interview in January.
Despite his ordeal to reach Poland, Baguley said at times Slava’s 12-year-old sense of humour came through.
Slava has returned to live with his parents in Ukraine, who refuse to leave the country because they want to remain with their son.
Asked about how difficult it was for Slava to leave his family for an uncertain future, he told Baguley that he was doing the right thing.
“He said, ‘A father does what a father must,’ and that was it.”