Christmas in Canada for Ukrainian refugees brightened by Kelowna residents – Okanagan

Christmas in Canada for Ukrainian refugees brightened by Kelowna residents – Okanagan

When they fled their war-torn country, most Ukrainians took very little with them.

And certainly very few toys, if any, for their children.

“Not a lot, just a little, but … just favorite toys,” said Anatolli Telbizov, who recently arrived in Kelowna with his wife and four children, ages four to 13.

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On Friday afternoon, Telbizov’s family was among about 50 who attended a toy distribution event at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of St. Peter and Paul to receive Christmas gifts for the upcoming holiday.

“We are very grateful to the Church and the Ukrainian community for these gifts,” Telbizov told Global News. “Our kids are so happy and so am I.”

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The toy drive was organized by the Kelowna stands with the Ukrainian organization and toy donations came from local residents.

“A lot of the families are struggling financially, finding a job, finding housing and so on,” said Denys Storozhuk, president of Kelowna Stands With Ukraine.

“We have a few families here who don’t have money to buy anything for their children.”

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Storozhuk said the toy distribution event serves two purposes. One of them is to help out during the holidays. The other is to make newcomers feel like they belong.

“Children are children. They like toys, right, so this saves their Christmas,” Storozhuk said.

“But it also makes them feel welcome in the country because they know these items are being donated by local people.”

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The donated items were distributed to more than 100 children ranging from newborns to teenagers.

“It makes me feel like we’re important here,” said 14-year-old Anna Duvina.

“People accept us here. They don’t think that we’re only here because… we want to be. They understand that we are here because we need to be somewhere safe.”

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Duvina’s father, who only came here last month, said this first Christmas away from home was filled with mixed feelings.

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“For Canadians, Christmas bells are ringing everywhere and there are bombings all over Ukraine,” said Denys Duvin. “Canadians’ help can ameliorate the deep emotions we have and we are very grateful.”

Kelowna Stands with Ukraine will soon host another toy drive for Ukrainians who celebrate Orthodox Christmas on January 7th.

“I’m so glad people are here and are so nice and helping us,” added Duvina.

If you would like to donate a toy, you can contact the Kelowna Stands With Ukraine group, which you can find on Facebook.

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