'I had to do something': Former Saskatoon Blade and his wife head to Ukraine to lend a helping hand
Michael Garnett and his wife Rebecca Rider are on their second trip volunteering in eastern Europe to help Ukrainians affected by Russian invasion.
Garnett is from Saskatoon and a former Saskatoon Blades goaltender. The couple, who live in Calgary, have travelled to Lviv, in western Ukraine, away from the Russian attacks.
He says refugees from Lviv had fled intense bombing.
"We're seeing people have been displaced within the country and they've chosen not to leave and they're being hosted here by other families," Garnett said.
"Their savings are running out and they're just trying to get by."
Garnett and Rider have been raising money through a GoFundMe to help buy basic necessities for women and children.
The couple has also rented a car to help transport supplies to the humanitarian centres in Lviv.
"We wanted to come in and help the most people possible," said Garnett. "I think about 300 people came through the shelters today and we provided almost everything that they picked up."
This is the couple's second tour in eastern Europe since the war broke out. During April the two were in Przemysl, Poland, located near the western Ukrainian border.
They rented a nine-passenger van and used it to shuttle refugees to humanitarian centers.
"I couldn't enjoy myself sitting in Canada. I felt like I had to do something. I had to get over and help," said Garnett. "It was just heartbreaking."
The couple has seen a lot during their two stints but one moment that stands for them was when two people in their 70s came through the Polish border with their disabled grandson, whom they were pushing in a wheelchair.
"We don't even know how they managed to get to the border. We never had time to ask those questions," said Rider.
The grandmother asked Garnett about the hot food he was eating.
"She asked is that hot food like, we haven't eaten today and that was just a normal story. People hadn't eaten for days, they left and they just started heading to the border."
Garnett went on to play several seasons in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and is three-quarters Ukrainian.
"I'm kind of in disbelief and I also don't really understand what's happening. I know so many people in Russia that are such great people," said Garnett.
"At the same time I look at them and I think is there something they could be doing and I don't know if there's an answer to that."
The couple hasn't booked a return flight home, as much of their stay depends on Rider's work schedule, a pilot for WestJet.
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