“Ukrainian boy” Lupandin seeks a better life for his children in Saskatoon

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dated: 2022-11-25 05:01:45 .

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Andrej Lupandin, seen here in 1995, photo file

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One day in November 1993, Andrei Lupandin, the best player on Ukraine’s acclaimed youth team Druzhba ’78 from Kharkiv, gathered with three teammates by the Gretzky statue outside Rexall Place as they invaded Canada.

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Unfortunately, the tyrannical coach Ivan Pravilov, the sadistic abuser of the boys from the team, was also in the photo, who had to be part of the picture. He smiled, the others not so much.

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Flashback to a day in November 2022. Lupandin, now 44, who was once the MVP of the legendary Quebec International Peewee Tournament and later played for current Vegas grandmaster Kelly McCrimon on his junior Brandon Wheat Kings, is terrified as he poses with his two boys Denys, 12, and Ilya, 15, with the same Gretzky statue – now in front of Rogers Place.

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Now he’s on a different path, with a family hoping to live full-time in Canada after leaving war-torn Ukraine on a refugee visa.

Andrei, his wife Antonina and sons recently arrived in Edmonton after first fleeing their bombed home in Ukraine and going into a basement with about 40 others. Their escape then took them on a 28-hour bus ride to Bratislava, Slovakia, where they stayed for six months with the help of friends. When they left Bratislava for Canada, Andrej’s father died – he could not say goodbye – to his last love.

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After their visa paperwork was done, they left everything with little money, taking only a hockey bag and a suitcase to start a new life in Saskatoon, home to a large Ukrainian population and two boys attending Canadian schools.

They delve into the depths of the unknown as a family, in Andrei’s case the second time since he left Europe alone with just a bag when he was just 17 to play junior hockey for McCrimmon.

“Now his family is moving with nothing so his kids can have a better life,” said Gary Gelinas, who lives in Saskatoon and is the son of Roger Gelinas, one of the organizers of the Druzhba ’78 tour. Gary was once the president of the WHL Everett Silvertips.

They set up a Gofundme page to help the Lupandis.

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Gelinas helped the 17-year-old in the WHL.

“Andrei played in the Dynamo organization in Moscow and I had to pay somebody about $500 to get Andrei’s passport… somebody was holding it,” Gary said. “At three in the morning he snuck out, took the train back to Kharkiv, took his bag, took the train back and we took him from Moscow to Edmonton. I remember when he landed in Edmonton I thought, ‘Where are the rest of your bags?’ He said, ‘That’s it.’”

When the family was in Edmonton, the Lupandins stayed with Gary’s father, Roger, a player on the first junior team of the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 1950s. The teenage Lupandin lived with Roger and his wife during the summer while Andrei played junior hockey. They also plan to meet another Druzhba executive, Walter Babiya, who wrote the book Reign of Fear about the team and the late Pravilov, who killed himself in a Philadelphia jail cell in 2012 after being charged with child abuse.

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It was a long, sad journey to Canada.

“It was very bad when we were there, a lot of bombing in Kharkiv at the beginning. Our apartment was destroyed, great damage in the city center, in our area,” said Lupandin. “It was a nightmare. We moved into the woman’s mother’s apartment, in the basement. It was like an underground base. Safe from the bombs.”

“I was more afraid for my children… I didn’t like it when they were scared and we couldn’t do anything about it. That was the worst,” he said. “I have no idea how long this (war) will last. I want it to be over today.”

Today his boys are in Canada. Denys will play for the Ukrainian national team in the same Quebec PeeWee tournament that his father participated in in 1992. This team featured future NHLers Dainus Zubrus and Andrei Zyuzin and three late NHL draft picks – Konstantin Kalmikov and Dmitriy Yakushin (Leafs) and Gennady Razin (Montreal). ) ).

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They beat a big, older team from Hartford, who Andrei says “all looked like they were going to shave.”

Now it’s Denys’ turn, a defender like Andrej and a good skater.

Ilya also played and was pretty good but he has bad knees so stop.

“I don’t want Ilja to progress in sports. He’s pretty smart, he can do better. He likes working with computers,” said Andrei, who left junior hockey and later played professionally for nine years in the United States before going to Belarus and Ukraine.

The trip to Bratislava was the next stage after three weeks at the base. “We took a bus for 28 hours to Bratislava, stopped at all the checkpoints and checked passports,” said Lupandin, who was born in Ukraine but had a Belarusian passport after playing hockey there.

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“I passed… but the lady who took our passports was really angry (because Belarus is hip-connected with Russia). I also have a Ukrainian green card. So you didn’t ask me too much. “If it was just a Belarusian passport, they would have kept me for 15 hours wondering if I might be a spy,” he said.

Andrej’s wife worked as a paralegal in Ukraine, but in Bratislava they both got jobs on the European version of Amazon, sorting packages and making sure they reach the right addresses.

Lupandin would never have had his Canadian hockey experience without Družba, but the never-happy coach physically abused him along with many others. “He took away our childhood,” he said after Pravilov’s death.

“I don’t see it (the Club) as bad times because of the coach… I only see it as good times because of the players.”

Now he’s hoping for good times ahead for his family in Saskatoon.

“I want them to have a future,” he said.

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Source: edmontonsun.com

“Ukrainian boy” Lupandin seeks a better life for his children in Saskatoon

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Source https://canadatoday.news/ca/ukrainian-boy-lupandin-searches-for-a-better-life-for-his-children-in-saskatoon-161754/

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