Stars align for Ukrainian newcomer who realizes his dream of becoming a pilot — but in Calgary
Vladyslav Vitske always knew he would eventually fulfill his dream of becoming a pilot — he just thought it would be in his hometown of Ukraine.
When Russia invaded the country, Vitske thought that dream would never come true — but he was wrong. While he didn’t become a pilot in Ukraine, he did end up realizing his dream in another country — Canada.
Despite being only one month away from pilot school in Ukraine, the 24-year-old came to Calgary as one of the thousands of Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Canada since the war began earlier this year.
As fate would have it, Vitske’s host turned out to be Calgary Stars pilot Jason Arthur. It couldn’t have been a better match.
How it all began
Vitske, who was a flight attendant in Ukraine, came from a family that has always been interested in planes and flying. His father is a colonel who coordinates fighter jets. His father and his brother remain in central Ukraine.
“I left the country on one of the last duty flights to the Dominican Republic before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24,” he says, adding he had applied for a pilot course a few months before.
“To become a pilot was my dream since childhood and I was really close to becoming it true, but the war destroyed all plans and dreams.”
Shortly after that, he made his way to Denmark where he learned about the Canadian government’s Ukrainian relocation program. That’s when he decided to make a Facebook post looking for a Canadian host.
Fulfilling a lifelong dream
Fate intervened when Vitske shared his story with a Canadian who reached out after seeing his post.
“One guy replied to me and told me that he was a jet pilot at AirSprint and currently works for STARS as a helicopter pilot,” he says.
“I told him my story that my biggest dream in life crashed. He told me that he is also a pilot … and he would help me to achieve this goal there. I thought it was a joke because he only had one picture on Facebook and no posts.”
It wasn’t a joke, and since then Arthur paid for Vitske’s flight and he’s now been in Calgary for two months.
A city full of opportunities
Arthur also introduced the aspiring pilot to AirSprint friends and because of his aviation background, they offered him a job at the office with an opportunity to move to the pilot seat.
“I am really happy to be in this amazing city with lots of opportunities,” Vitske says, adding Arthur also created a GoFundMe fundraising campaign to help him get his private pilot licence.
So far, the campaign has raised over $10,000 towards its $75,000 goal, but every little bit helps.
“In Ukraine, two months before the war began, I had paid for my pilot studying and lost everything as that flight school was totally destroyed by rocket attacks with all airplanes.”
A bittersweet whirlwind
Vitske says the whole experience has been a bittersweet whirlwind and he is thankful for these opportunities, though he admits it hasn’t always been easy. He says it has helped that he already knew English after studying the language for 10 years.
“To adapt to a new reality can’t be easy,” he says, adding it took two weeks to get the necessary documents to begin his new job and, ultimately, his new life in a new country.
“I really enjoy the Canadian style of doing lots of things. I feel that hospitality and citizens are kind and try to help. This amazing country has lots of opportunities for people’s development.”
While he is happy with his new life in Canada, he still worries about his family back home.
A few months ago, Vtiske’s brother was securing a military gas station to fuel vehicles and injured his eye during a Russian rocket attack. He has been healing and is back in the military.
Never give up on your dreams
The whole experience has inspired Vitske to encourage others not to give up on their dreams.
“My advice to everybody is never give up and always look for opportunities, even if it’s not so easy and seems unreal,” he says, adding that he made the post on Facebook without any expectations.
“My case shows that even a small Facebook post can completely change our life and all of us could get a new life with lots of opportunities.”
Vitske plans to develop his skills as a flight supporter and says he will be studying for a pilot course with the goal of flying for AirSprint. His goal is to become a permanent citizen.
“One more important thing for me is that I really appreciate the people and the country who presented me with a ticket in life with a bright future. (I want to get) citizenship and develop and improve this wonderful country. I want to become a part of this society.”