Ukrainian refugee story hit hard by Langley public – Aldergrove Star
Audiences were in tears long before Oksana Druchynina finished sharing her story of escaping from war in Ukraine.
People’s faces showed their shock as she painted a picture of her crossing borders and spoke of the constant terror of not knowing if she would make it to Canada safely.
Druchynina was not the only Ukrainian in this room at that time.
With Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) expanding its settlement support initiatives for Ukrainians coming to the country, there has been an immediate ripple effect at New Directions English Language School, as a number Ukrainian newcomers enrolled in English language education.
Following the influx, New Directions President Yvonne Hopp proposed an event where Ukrainians could meet other Ukrainians in the area.
“I wanted to make sure newcomers felt safe and welcome,” she explained.
Soon she was ready with a plan, and on Thursday, April 27, she organized a Ukrainian get-together on the institution’s campus.
“Thursday morning, it was evident by the lively activity that another exciting community event was being held at New Directions.”
Guests included past and current New Directions Ukrainian students in addition to other community partners, who made yellow and blue ribbons for all attendees.
School volunteers were seen setting up the catering service, featuring Ukrainian perogies.
Many made cards and posters with words of encouragement and support, decorated with sunflowers and yellow and blue tulle, the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
“It was a popular event,” Hopp said.
The meeting took place in the atrium of New Directions.
The town’s mayor, Val van den Broek, was present and addressed the audience of around 50 – talking about the horror of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and encouraging donations through organizations charities.
After Mayor Ruth Derksen Siemens, who is a board member of the Mennonite Center Ukraine, spoke about her relatives who perished in Siberia after being sentenced to the Gulag by the Stalin regime.
She was also talking about the letters she had translated and published in book form, Remember Us: Letters from Stalin’s Gulag (1930-37).
Finally, she introduced Druchynina, a Ukrainian refugee who fled her home with her three children and who is currently sponsored by Langley Mennonite Fellowship in Langley.
Druchynina told her story of fleeing with only a backpack, driving down a road where only hours later bombs were falling, wondering if she would ever see her mother in Kyiv again, or her husband who remained in their town. native of Molochansk (south-eastern Ukraine). ) again.
She is now director of the Mennonite Center Ukraine, a charity for the elderly and destitute, established by Canadians whose Mennonite ancestors fled those same villages as refugees after World War II.
“We felt safe and loved our country, Ukraine. I was helping other people in need, now I am a refugee myself,” Druchynina said.
As they left the stage, people presented her with cards filled with heartfelt messages of condolence and support.
“They were filled with prayers for peace and assurances of love and a warm welcome here in Canada. Several students from various countries offered words of comfort. They included India, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan…students shared words of encouragement and hugs,” Hopp said.
After the formalities, everyone gathered for refreshments and mingled with each other, making new friends.
“For the Ukrainian refugees among us, there was a warm and welcoming atmosphere which achieved and fulfilled the purpose of the event,” she added. “Obviously, at least for those three hours, their fears were allayed and they felt welcome and at home.”
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