It was a difficult decision for the organizers of the Ukrainian Saturday school in Ridna Shkola to open the doors yesterday and organize their classes.
According to Olena Shyian, president of the Regina branch of the Ukrainian National Federation of Canada, the organization that runs Ridna Shkola, many students at the original language school are children of Ukrainian newcomer families who settled in Regina over the past ten years.
“Many families are concerned [by the war],” she says.
“But then we thought these kids need to get out of their homes. … They need to be together here and they need to talk to each other.”
As some of the students worked on arts and crafts activities on Saturday, they had the opportunity to share what was happening with their families in Ukraine.
A student scared for her family
Standing between Canadian and Ukrainian flags, students aged 3 to 12, along with their teachers and parents, sang Ukraine’s national anthem, paying tribute to those in the war zone.
Some of the children present on Saturday expressed concern for their family members who live in Ukraine.
One of them is Ivanna Shyian, who was born in Canada, but whose grandparents and cousins are still in Ukraine.
“I fear for my family,” she said. “They’re all hiding, waiting, like, for the smallest thing to happen.”
Ivanna Shyian is also concerned about all children living in Ukraine, especially those in orphanages.
Edgar Okhrymenko, a student of Ridna Shkola, also wants an end to the war.
“I feel really sad because of the war,” he said. “I don’t want people killed.”
Okhrymenko asks everyone in the world to pray for the people of Ukraine.
Ukraine needs help: Regina’s father
Petro Nakutnyyn is a father involved with Ridna Shkola in Regina.
He is worried about the safety of his parents, other family members and friends living in Ukraine.
“They are safe at the moment, but the fighting is 80 kilometers from my hometown,” he said.
“I have a group chat with my [former] classmates, and they’re in bunkers. It’s very sad. It’s not something that we ever, ever imagined, you know, going to school.”
Like Olena Shyian, Nakutnyyn believes in talking about the situation with her children.
“It is very important that we keep this memory alive,” he said. “This [our kids] know what’s going on,” he said.
Regina’s father hopes the world can step in more to support his home country.
“We need help,” he said. “Ukraine was, for the most part, left to fight on its own.”
Tips for school counselors
Olena Shyian hopes that schools and their counselors will watch over pupils affected by the Russian invasion, for example because they have family in Ukraine.
She says that, like children from other countries who are affected by war, Ukrainian children in Canada now also need support.
“Just talk to them, just listen to them, just give them a chance to discuss what’s going on,” she said.
With her own pain in the face of the crisis, Olena Shyian herself is in trouble.
“I don’t know how I can go back to work on Monday,” she said.
“I’m just checking [the] news and keep in touch with my family. My mind is not at work and my mind is not here right now.”