Canadian International Rescue Organization team leader reflects on his second trip to Ukraine


A team made up of members from central Alberta returned to Ukraine earlier this summer to help save lives.

From June 3 to 25, the Canadian International Rescue Organization traveled to Kharkiv, Ukraine, located in the east of the country, near the Russian border.

“This place was one of the first hits in the war, so there was a lot of structural damage. There was still daily bombing and daily rocket attacks,” said Red Deer crew chief Marcel Schur. .

The main job of the team was to help with the structural stability of the buildings.

“We made at least one call a day,” Schur explained.

“There was so much damage there, especially on the east end of the city where the first strikes took place.”

During the team’s first adventure in Ukraine, from early March to early April, they conducted search and rescue operations in the country’s capital, Kyiv.

The war is raging harder than ever, Schur noted.

“Right now the war is as intense as it was at the beginning. It just doesn’t cover the same areas. Everything has come back closer to the Russian border and to Belarus,” he said .

“The regions (Russia) are trying to take over, they are smashing them into pieces. If they can’t have them, they will destroy them. It is very important that people remember that this war is still very, very active.

The experience in Kharkiv has been stressful for the team at times, Schur said.

“We were going to an (air-raid) shelter seven times a day. Sometimes even more. At night you’re up every two hours because of an evacuation,” he said.

“People get tired faster and frustrated more easily. It was stressful that way. But the job wasn’t really stressful because you weren’t really dealing with humans. You weren’t trying to save anyone’s life, you were trying to prevent something from happening.

The team taught combat first aid to a few hundred firefighters when they weren’t doing heavy work. Team members also taught people how to use the equipment.

The search and rescue team has no immediate plans to return to Ukraine, but could leave for a third deployment in the fall.

CIRO is an impartial and neutral team of volunteers who respond to global disasters to provide professional search and rescue services. In addition to being volunteers, the team members took time off from their usual work to help others.

To donate to CIRO, which is a non-profit organization, visit

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