Elyish was 18-years-old when he started working as an interpreter from 2010-2011. After serving with the Canadian Forces, he worked as a construction site supervisor in Helmond Province, Afghanistan.
In 2021, as the Taliban swept back to power, he received death threats. The Taliban called him a “traitor”.
“They wanted to target the people who worked with the coalition forces – they called us “kafir” – which means infidels,” former Afghan interpreter Elyish told CTV news in July 2021, still hiding from the Taliban. Source
“It’s very scary. We hear 24-hour fighting going on, and the gunshots…and air strikes inside the city.”
“I’m under threat in Afghanistan, they’re not going to let me and my family leave,” he said. Elyish had a personal note for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “As soon as possible, please take us out of this country, it’s so very horrible and very dangerous for us right now. We cannot go anywhere.”
Elyish got his wish. Thanks to VTN donors and the aid of Canadian veteran Corey Shelson, Elyish, along with his wife and 18-month-old daughter, made it to Canada in August of 2021. VTN donors protected them in a Kabul safehouse before their evacuation.
“As a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to never leave a comrade behind. Thank you to the Veterans Transition Network and generous donors for the financial assistance which enabled us to evacuate this family from Afghanistan and give them a second chance at life here in Canada.” – Capt (Ret’d) Corey Shelson, 13 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces, including eight months in Kandahar as a combat engineer troop commander
Journey to Safety
The Coordinated Evacuation Effort
After contacting Elyish and his family, it was estimated that they only had 24-48 hours before the Taliban would capture them. VTN’s partners began a coordinated evacuation effort. Using a combination of air and ground transportation, they moved Elyish and his family out of Lashkar Gah and into a safe house in Kabul. Over the following weeks, VTN and partners supported him with the completion of his IRCC, which resulted in an evacuation flight from Kabul to Pearson Airport in Toronto, Ontario.
14 July 2021
First contact made with Elyish’s family via introduction from fellow interpreter. Located and stranded in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province.
Photo: Elyish and his brother stranded in Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
15 July 2021
Taliban surround Lashkar Gah.
Attacks and death
16 July 2021
Taliban enter the city of Lashkar Gah.
Fierce fighting in the streets. Targeted assassinations begin. Vehicle bombs and suicide bombers attack the city.
17 July 2021
Evacuation coordination begins.
Communication received that the Taliban would capture and execute Elyish’s family within 24 hours if not evacuated.
18 July 2021
VTN and partners successfully evacuate Elyish from Lashkar Gah by helicopter.
Remainder of the family evacuated by ground. Moved to Kandahar Airfield, set up in secure accommodations.
Photo: Elyish and CAF Veteran communicate after successful evacuation to Kandahar Air Field.
19 July 2021
Commercial flight from Kandahar to Kabul, paid for and coordinated by VTN & Partners.
Moved to safe house, provided housing, food, life support, paid for and operated by VTN & Partners.
22 July 2021
Government of Canada announces special immigration measures.
23 July - 10 Aug 2021
VTN and partners support Elyish in understanding and completing his IRCC application.
11 Aug 2021
Elyish’s family is evacuated via commercial flight from Kabul Airport to Pearson Airport.
Photo: Elyish, his brother, wife, and daughter prepare to board their evacuation.
15 Aug 2021
Taliban capture Kabul.
Kabul airport closes and riots begin at the airport gates.
27 Aug - 13 Sept 2021
Elyish and family begin 3 week resettlement assistance program in London, Ontario.
Photo: Canadian Forces Veteran, Corey Shelson with Elyish and his brother, sharing lunch in London, Ontario. First face-to-face meeting following Elyish’s arrival in Canada.
14 Sept 2021
With support from a CAF veteran sponsor, Elyish secures housing and full-time.
Photo: Elyish and his wife during a neighbourhood walk in London, Ontario
16 Sept 2021
Elyish’s first day of work in Canada as a Construction Site Supervisor with General Contractor in London, Ontario.
Photo: Elyish on his first day of work as General Contractor Site Supervisor.
A New Home
Finding Safety in Canada
Since Elyish and his family arrived in Canada, the VTN has supported them, successfully helping them relocate to London, Ontario. We have helped him secure a beautiful apartment, a well-paying job, and provide assistance to ease his family’s acclimatization to Canadian culture.
Elyish still worries for his brother, sister-in-law and their four children in Afghanistan, and hides his face for their protection while they try to make their way to Canada.
Now in London, Ontario, Elyish has the support of his friend, veteran Corey Shelson, who helped him get housing and a full-time job, and continues to “interpret” Canadian life for him. Elyish and his wife welcomed their second child in 2022, a daughter who will grow up in Canada thanks to VTN donors and the unwavering support of veteran Corey Shelson.