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'This bike has been important to me': Ukrainian teen reunited with stolen bike thanks to local community


Illia Makysmenko has been an avid bike rider since the age of six.

“I like to ride my bike because it's very good for your legs, and it's very fast," said Illia . "It's like you are driving a motorcycle.”

The 14-year-old's passion for biking certainly didn't change when he made the move to Canada.

“In Ukraine, it’s very different riding, here you go on a road and it's very good,” he said. “In Ukraine, it was war and Canada is a beautiful place to live.”

Illia, along with his family, moved to Norfolk County last year to flee the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

Shortly after arriving, Illia was given a bike from a local Ukrainian refugee support group as a way to welcome him to the community.

“Their family arrived, and like most of the families, most of them didn't have driver's license, didn't have transportation," said said Jennifer Rodger, a Norfolk County resident who is part of the group called Norfolk Support for Ukrainian Refugees."So I was trying to get bikes for everybody. We had managed to get about 35 bikes to different families and we had a really nice bike donated that I knew Illia would love because he's an active kid."

With his new wheels, he soon was back on the streets doing what he loved best.

“He was so happy,” Rodger said. “He was very careful with it. He diligently locked it up all the time. They made sure to get the serial number off the bike just in case.”

In November, his beloved wheels were stolen right from his own home.

“My brother woke me up and said ‘Illia, your bike has been stolen’. I woke up, [it] looked like somebody broke my lock," said Illia. "I was thinking like, why somebody stole my bicycle? What did they want with my bicycle?”

“I drove around looking everywhere for it, walking and going places that I probably shouldn't have been going, but looked for the bike and was not successful in finding it,” Rodger explained. “I was angry, angry that someone would take something from a kid.”

After months of uncertainty, Illia got the reunion he was longing for.

“Members of the Haldimand-Norfolk OPP Community Street Crime Unit executed a search warrant at a residence in Simcoe and during a search of the residence, not only did officers locate and seize a number of illicit items, they also recovered three bicycles, which they determined to be stolen,” said Const. Andrew Gamble. “Officers were able to determine the owner of one of the bicycles and eventually reunite the individual with their bicycle.”

OPP says this story serves a reminder to practice bicycle safety and theft prevention.

“When it comes to stolen property, whether it's a bicycle, a cell phone, a wallet, even a vehicle, as the days and weeks and months progressed, the likelihood of actually finding that item decreases pretty significantly," said Const. Gamble. "The fact that the bicycle was not only recovered but recovered in such good condition is a pretty remarkable thing. For a bicycle, a serial number goes a long way.

“We're just so happy for Illia and being able to reunite him with that bicycle. It does mean the world to him. And it's a very special moment for him. It's a special moment for our police and community and Simcoe and the surrounding area.”

Freshly reunited with his lost wheels, Illia is now laying out some plans for him and his bike.

“I want to bike to Port Dover with my friend and go swim,” he said. “This bike has been important to me, it's like very important for my part of life.” Top Stories

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