Eliezer Sherbatov returns safely to Laval, after fleeing war in Ukraine

International hockey player recalls narrow escape from Russian offensive

Eliezer Sherbatov, a player with the Ukrainian Hockey League whose home base is in Laval, was back last week from war-torn Ukraine, safe with his wife and children in Sainte-Dorothée, after narrowly escaping a country that remains under ongoing military attack from Russian forces.

Sherbatov’s name may be familiar to people who know the Sherbatov Academy for hockey, which is operated by the Sherbatov family in Laval. According to an online biographical information source, Sherbatov, 30, moved with his family from Israel to Laval when he was two years old.

Ukrainian Hockey League player Eliezer Sherbatov, whose home base is in Laval’s Sainte-Dorothée district, returned last week from war-torn Ukraine. (Photo: Courtesy of Sergey Seryodkin)

Liked Guy Lafleur

His parents were originally from Russia and fans of the Montreal Canadiens. As the story goes, his family was permitted to enter Canada by immigration officials after his father said he wanted his son, Eliezer, to grow up to be like Guy Lafleur.

Eliezer Sherbatov graduated from Laval’s École secondaire Georges-Vanier on Lévesque Blvd. East in Duvernay, and then took distance-learning courses in CEGEP. He spent the 2008–09 season with the Laval-Bourassa Rousseau Sports of the Quebec Midget AAA Hockey League, and was third in the league for scoring.

In Ukraine when war started

Eliezer Sherbatov was in Ukraine for a UHL hockey match last week in Mariupol where his team is based, when he was awakened before daybreak by the sound of armaments exploding. He was one of the more than a million people in Ukraine who quickly fled the country, as Russian forces continued their attacks in order take control of Ukraine’s key urban centres.

Being of dual Canadian/Israeli citizenship, Sherbatov first contacted the Canadian global affairs ministry, but found their automated phone system advice to go to a bomb shelter unsatisfactory. Determined to get out of Ukraine, he contacted Israeli authorities who instructed him to travel to western Ukraine near the border with Poland.

A dangerous journey

Along with two teammates, he waited for a train from Druzhkivka to Lviv in western Ukraine, only to be informed there was a chance the train would be bombed during the transit and that they might not survive.

Although one of his teammates chose not to board the train, Sherbatov decided to take the risk. While in transit over the next 24 hours, he endured constant stress, never sleeping while travelling through territories which were under heavy attack by Russian military units almost the whole time.

A harrowing experience

Upon arrival in Lviv, he was met by a team of Israeli volunteers, who put him in charge of a busload of 17 other people from Ukraine who would also be crossing the nearby border into Poland. At the border, where the conditions were chaotic, Sherbatov and the other bus passengers found themselves forced to cross on foot in the cold, after which they were picked up and transported to the Israeli embassy in Warsaw.

Although now back at home in Sainte-Dorothée/Laval, Sherbatov left behind most of his personal belongings except his passport. Even though he was able to escape Ukraine, he remains worried about the many others, including teammates, who are still stranded in war-torn Ukraine.