Years after leaving the front lines, two Canadian veterans are tackling the horrors of war again as they help Ukrainians, including interpreters who worked with the Canadian Forces, escape.
For the past eight months, Kynan Walper, a former infantry officer who served in Afghanistan, and Dave Lavery, a former special forces officer, had been helping Afghan interpreters who worked for the Canadian military flee the Taliban. But after Russia invaded Ukraine last month, Walper and Lavery turned their attention to the war in Europe.
The Canadian Forces had been in Ukraine since 2015, training local security forces. As in Afghanistan, the Canadian trainers relied on Ukrainian interpreters. Fearing the interpreters could face added risks from the Russian forces because they had worked for a NATO country, Walper and Lavery traveled to Ustrzyki-Dolne, in the southeast corner of Poland, where they set up base operations and began the process of extracting former interpreters.
“We owe it to them,” Walper said. “They served Canada, and we want to serve them as well.”
While Walper and Lavery have a list of about two dozen interpreters in Ukraine, they said they had a wider mission to help anyone fleeing the Russian assault. They have also been sending materials like medical supplies and baby food to Kyiv and other cities that are under attack and experiencing shortages.
The two veterans work in an upstairs room, where maps are spread across tables and names are sketched on whiteboards. The news flashes on a wall-mounted TV. “We’re here for the long haul,” Lavery said.
While the task in Afghanistan similarly involved getting people out of danger, Lavery said Ukraine is more challenging in some ways, with intense combat, airstrikes, and shelling.
There are fewer interpreters in Ukraine than in Afghanistan, but there are enough to keep the veterans busy. “So far, we’re looking at probably about 25, you could say 25-plus. There’s more. There’s going to be a lot more,” Lavery said.
“Just like in Afghanistan, these interpreters put trust in Canada,” Walper said. “I know they meant a lot to the people who worked with them in the military. Having worked with interpreters myself, I know you forge very strong bonds. And I know people in the Canadian military who served on missions are extremely worried about their safety.”
Read Full Article from Global News (Canada) (03/25/22)
Author: Bell, Stewart; Semple, Jeff
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