ATHABASCA — The Ed Stelmach Community Foundation has a lot more money it can use to help Ukraine relief efforts, both overseas and in Alberta after a generous donation from a local company.
On May 4, the 2007 Case 650k Crawler dozer donated to auction by Athabasca's Bilsky Contracting was sold by Ritchie Bros. Auctions, who waived their usual fees, for $81,000, and impressed not only the former premier, Ed Stelmach but also former MLA Thomas Lukaszuk who has been working tirelessly beside his former boss to collect supplies and donations.
“I was just delighted to see such generosity from a local company, from a family obviously with Ukrainian heritage to put up that big of a piece of equipment,” Lukaszuk said in a May 6 interview. “And then Ritchie Bros. were so kind to waive all of their auction fees that they normally charged sellers and buyers, which was, again extremely generous of them.”
The Bilskys donated the machine in the name of their father Dan, who was born Dmytro Bilsky in Ukraine, but his parents changed his name when they came to Canada. He passed on May 3, 2004, and the sale of the dozer was originally scheduled for May 3, 2022, too but due to the volume of pieces it was changed to May 4.
Lukaszuk noted whoever the buyer was knew they were spending above market value for the piece of equipment.
“So obviously, with a donation in mind,” he said. "It is just amazing when people collaborate in such a great way and so much generosity to support such a worthy cause.”
Lukaszuk, who is Polish by birth, said the loss of two drivers who were murdered by Russian soldiers as they were transporting goods across the Ukraine-Poland border only made him and Stelmach increase their efforts to help.
“It set us back emotionally and I can’t even imagine being one of their loved ones. What a pointless loss of life,” he said.
He added they deliver lifesaving supplies to people who would otherwise die.
"Unfortunately, we lost them, but it didn't set us back from an operational perspective, actually we doubled down.”
Lukaszuk said he thinks the reason Canadians have responded to the situation in Ukraine so generously is because there are a lot of similarities between the two countries — they're both democratic, they have similar homes and vehicles and a big neighbour with a big army.
“One day they wake up and a superpower next door invades them,” he said. “Canadians found it easier to relate personally than perhaps to any other ones in different parts of the world. And I think it's resonating because there's a realization that we're not so special, it could happen here as well.”
Lukaszuk added there will be more auctions, more fundraising, and the Edmonton Elks are donating the proceeds from their June 3 game against Calgary to the foundation.