A man who once worked for the KGB in Communist Russia has turned to a religious institution to avoid being deported from Canada.

Mikhail Lennikov moved into the First Lutheran Church in Vancouver yesterday where he was offered sanctuary.

Rev. Richard Hergesheimer welcomed Lennikov a day after the Federal Court of Canada rejected the man’s plea for a stay of deportation.

Lennikov, who lived in Burnaby with wife Irina and son Dmitri for 12 years, is prohibited from staying in Canada because he worked for Russian secret police in the 1980s. He claims he was employed in an administrative role.

“We were always hoping it wouldn’t come to this. We know what we are doing with sanctuary is illegal … but it’s not wrong,” said Hergesheimer.

Sanctuary is a long-honoured tradition worldwide; one that Hergesheimer said Canada respects.

“What we’re doing is icing the puck, just stopping the clock so we can all get a chance to take a step back and see what options are available,” said Hergesheimer.

The move into the church was in the works for three months as a last resort to avoid deportation.

A computer lab in the basement was converted into a bedroom and a shower was installed in the bathroom for Lennikov, who joined the congregation last summer along with his wife.

For now, Lennikov said he is “comfortable” in his new living space.

“It’s more comfortable than an airplane seat,” he joked.

He admits the eight-year fight to stay in Canada has taken a toll on his family, especially on his son Dmitri.

“Under the surface there are three people,” Lennikov said. “Three people that decided to come to Canada and make Canada home.

“We don’t have the certificate but to us it doesn’t matter. To us, we are Canadians.”

There has been an overwhelming amount of support for the Lennikov family, including numerous Facebook groups.

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